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Category Archives: Japan

Is a phrase that should never, unless you possess a high degree of aptitude with the language, be uttered.  You will not understand the stream of Japanese that is to follow, the awkward lulls in this monologue during which you are expected to respond will undoubtedly end in the waiter pressing resolutely onward, and the culinary trial-by-ordeal which will surely ensue will leave you turgid to the point of nausea and broke to the point of destitution.

Actually, it was a nice meal.  A great meal, really.  The company was wonderful (god, Japanese girls are cute), and the food was beautifully presented and astonishingly good.  But it kept coming.  And coming.  And coming.  Raw octopus with wasabi, followed by four kinds of tuna sashimi, followed by a tomato salad (just one?  Just one, thanks), followed by chicken fried so perfectly that the fat had been just-rendered into a gooey substance that flowed out like barbeque sauce when you punctured its crispy exterior.  Eventually, I reached the point where I was unable to respond to said cute girls due to both hypersalivation and a sneaking suspicion that three quarters of my meal was lodged between my teeth.

On the flip side, I got (what I assume to be a very nourishing) kiss out of the equation, and had a damned good excuse to heave myself into a taxi once the ordeal was through.

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Communicating with the Japanese is… strange.  Even with those few Nihon-jin with solid English skills, you’re forced to syncopate your speech, and chuck out your elle’s in favor of arr’s.  It almost always feels as if you’re mocking the people with whom you’re trying, in earnest, to communicate.

I feel as if I’m doing a bad impression of Mickey Rooney doing a bad impression of a Japanese man.

It started innocuously enough: a few diahrettic episodes here & there, a maismic nausea hanging over my day.  And then, slowly, I began putting the pieces together: a calculating look whenever I placed an order, a strange malevolence to the way in which my meal was placed at my table.

Slowly, surely, the stains on my underwear began to take the shape of the rising sun.

Now, I don’t know whether this attempt on my life was born of xenophobic anger, or whether O-bun is, in fact, a celebration of anal fissures, but this fecal waterfall has flowed, uninterrupted, since I set foot on this cursed soil.  I’ve desecrated every bathroom I’ve set foot in, I’ve blown ass in every bath house.

Presently, I would kill for an anvo & chee on whole wheat.

SO there hasn’t been an update in a couple of days PARTLY because I’ve been too busy tooling around with my little brother, but MOSTLY because I’ve been too fuckin’ exhausted to lift my stinking, sweating head from his now sodden floor.  Surprisingly, this has little to do with our alcohol consumption– we actually took it easy last night (no laughing, please)– instead, the finger rests squarely on the greasy, swollen orb of doom perched mercilessly overhead.  No, my brother hasn’t hired a squad of thuggish sumos to shade me with their scrotums (though I begged, kiddies, I begged).  THE SUN IS TO BLAME!  This Land of the Rising Sun business is a JOKE.  The sun rises and then looms there crapulently in the poisonously thick air.  NOT that I’m complaining.  (I am complaining).

This rant could end with a glowing description of the beautiful (if smokey) train ride here, of the gorgeous beaches lined with caltrop-like jetties, of the rolling hills and weather-worn graves, blah blah blah.  But I’m too excited to sit down and really commit any of that to paper.  SO, when next I have a quiet moment to myself, I’ll pontificate endlessly on the majestic beauty of this place and its people.  For the time being, I’m gonna go out and get myself filthy with it.  Miss you all!

So I’ve landed….  Through a magical combination of beer, air conditioning and sleep deprivation, I’m *almost* able ignore the fact that my internal (and computer) clock is indicating that it is ten o’clock at night.  But last night, oh god last night..  It comes back in flashes– like a pilot under heavy acceleration, subjective time spinning far, far slower than what the scenery was clearly experiencing.  Night club, the Rippongi, gangster rap from six years ago pounding so loudly that thoughts and conversation is only permisable between beats.  My brother and his friends, dancing and talking up girls almost immediately pulled away by their companions.  Laughter, flashing lights, a taxi cab.  More girls, this time Swedish.  One with a homely face and an off-center lip piercing that I find compelling.  More talking, new friends– a Maori with a shell necklace (really?) and a Brit.

Apparently, all foreigners teach English here.  And all English pubs are rife with gaijin weekending from their small towns.  Everything’s strange and close, but these familiar faces offer something to hold on to.  Conversation veers toward country of origin.  Bets are placed.  Coins are collected.

Jet lag and sleep deprivation have me caught in a twilight state, waiting for the other shoe to drop– the accumulate effect of the myriad chemicals forcing my brain into a state of wakefulness to drop out from beneath me.

Yesterday was… strange.  The flight consisted of me nodding, smiling and feigning sleep in the face of your standard-issue Microsoft employee’s idea of “conversation.”  A statuesque Japanese girl was sitting directly in front of me, confusing my olfactory sensorium to the point of breaking by alternately swishing her heaven-scented curly hair around and rubbing pungent wet-naps all over her sleep-pinched (though all the more lovely for it) face.

Will I have another beer and continue core-dumping?  I think I will.

Narita airport is big.  Very big.  Traversing it with you, all moving in the same direction, are hundreds of thousands of tourists, vacationers, businessmen and re-entrants, all freshly expunged from the huge airplanes that line the gateway.  Everything is close and frenzied and all that I want is a meal, a fifth of whiskey and a carton of cigarettes.  Waiting in line for customs, my laptop starts beeping like crazy, causing some concerned looks from the people around me.  Who would make a computer that sounds like a bomb when its batteries are as drained as my own?

Getting out into the heat and humidity of the countryside, I find that, of the small library I’ve packed, the two books that I’ve forgotten are 1) my Lonely Planet guide to Japan, and 2) the book I’ve scribbled Eric’s number into.  Aces.  After some tense, confused navigation of the local telephone system, I am able to purchase a surreally expensive phone card and dial my father, who is visiting my grandfather in Los Angeles.  Does he have my brother’s number?  He does not, but my uncle does.  With a bit more struggling, I am able to force-feed the pay phone four dollars, endure a two-hour bus ride, a tense(r) and too-long wait in rain so dense and heavy that I feel submerged, and meet up with my brother and his friends.

We drop off my things at the hotel, and I finally get my first taste of Tokyo.  Though the sashimi is still frozen, and the beer is so light it feels drinking water, I have never been so restored by a meal in the entirety of my life.

Speaking of beer, number two’s finally kicking in and I’m beginning to feel human again.

Eric’s friends seem alright.  Billy is a tall, gangly boy with chunks of bleached-blonde hair radiating out from all sides of his head.  I suggest, and he endures the nickname “two-scoops,” in homage to the leering solar caricature from the commercials of our youth.  This is not funny, but it suffices.  Fred is Canadian.  By the strange, oil-on-water bond shared by ex-pats, we are all immediate friends.

That’s about it for this installment.  Tune in next time for (hopefully less angsty) further adventures of…  ME!