Slowly but surely I will peck away at the backlog of events and get to a point where I can actually report things that are fresh in my mind. Until then, here's some more stale recollections. It was two weeks ago after the GOTHIC LOLITA SHOPPING BAZAAR concluded, and, hardcore mofo that I am, I decided that I wasn't done. I mean, the GLSB *was* pretty absurd, but I'm insatiable. Like a black hole, the force of my awesome-ness is so great that *even suck cannot escape*. But first, before departing on another gallivant, I went down to Yokohama for a bit. Let me tell you, the view from the train leading through that massive grey sprawl from Tokyo to Japan's second city is positively dystopian; fields of unidentifiable machinery going about their tasks without a person in sight, massive, angry-looking cranes that look as though they could dead-lift a submarine, a concrete expanse filled with rows of perfectly aligned steel globes of uncertain contents, a hundred meters high and disappearing in to the distance...just a mind-warping tangle of industry banging and hissing away robotically in the smog-tinted evening haze. It was so William Gibson/Blade Runner, I expected Deckard to burst in to the car and unload on a replicant at any second.
The reason for this delightful sightseeing excursion was that I wanted to visit Sasagawa-sensei, my old karate teacher at Yamate ten years ago. I wrote about him and his whole situation a while back; basically some dumb kid got himself paralyzed by lying about having a doctor's permission to fight and Sasagawa got canned for it after 22 years of faithful service. Fucking bullshit never would have happened if Inomata-sensei, the old karate teacher and Sasagawa's mentor, was still the kocho [principal], but I guess he retired to Chiba or some shit. Anyway, I felt a strong sense of giri [obligation] to visit Sasagawa, not just because of all the things I owe him [like, you know, cracked fingers and traumatized feet and a sore head and NOT BEING AN UTTER PUSSY anymore like I was before], but because I genuinely liked him personally and wanted to see how he's doing. I had been out and about all day lugging stuff around, so I stashed my bag in a park behind a tree [gotta love that] and went on my way. Well, after some fun finding his house in the dark, I finally arrived. Addresses in Japan make no sense whatsoever. Virtually no streets are named, so you get a neighbourhood number, then a block number, then a building number, all of which are totally abstract and arbitrary and assigned by some sadist bent on hopelessly confusing outsiders and even the Japanese themselves. Buildings are numbered according to the order in which they were built, not in any sort of sequence, and so all sorts of fun happens when something is torn down and replaced with a new structure [and a new, non-sequential number]. Well, I hardly intend this entry to be a lament on urban geography. Anyway, my man is still young-looking and healthy, with a face that looks like it could crack steel plate. He's burly and solid looking, and would be really scary if it weren't for his ready grin and the mischievous twinkle in his eye, like he's perpetually smirking about some private joke. He was home taking care of his two sons, who are very cute and look just like him:
Sasagawa is the same with them as he is with his students, all tough and macho and calling them "omae" which is a very masculine, agressive way of saying "you", but he does it with a cheery, salt-of-the-earth blue-collar directness that makes it not threatening at all. Well, long story short, I gave him a bottle of Crown and we cracked that bitch and reminisced about old times. I showed him pictures of the kids in the club back then and he told me what they did with themselves: the flat-faced, big nosed awkward kid we called "Kabao" ["hippo"] is married to some hot chick, the soft-spoken, almost effeminate but unbelievably devastating captain of the team works at so-and-so university, the big, quiet, shy one makes a living as a professional pachinko player. Well, who'd a thunk it. He's understandably pretty pissed about the whole situation, but he's a fighter and never gives up. He didn't have that alcove groaning under the weight of a metric buttload of boxing and karate trophies for no reason. With his typical joie de vivre and "WTF?" spirit, he's now a semi-professional latin dancer[?!]. For reals, y0. Like, he's going to a competition soon that will send him to LA if he wins. Well, whatever does it for you, I thought. If anyone cracks wise about his too-tight pants or frilly pirate shirt, he can kick their asses a new way for each day of the lunar calendar. A true Renaissance Man. He was happy that I'm back in karate and in general pretty genki despite the circumstances. I hope he was pleasantly surprised with how I turned out...I know everyone changes a lot in that span between the teen years and adulthood, but to look at who I am now compared to back then I can scarcely believe I'm the same person. This is one of those people who I always wanted to please, because he commands respect, doesn't accept subpar effort, but is also a genuinely nice guy. My fondest memory of him [well, it was quite traumatic at the time, but in hindsight it acquires a warm glow of nostalgia] is fighting for my life against some deranged wolverine of a kid in some shoddy unheated school gym in the dead of winter, sticking out like a sore thumb because a] I was the only whitey in the joint, and b] I was getting dramatically and methodically crushed. Anyway, to draw even more attention on to me, Sasagawa shouts out in that fierce parade square sergeant-major voice of his, IN ENGLISH: "JAMIE, DON'T BE A FAGGOT! YOU HAVE TO HIT, JAMIE! KICK HIS AAAAAAAASSSSSSSSS!!!" I was so surprised by this my first instinct was to face away from my opponent and bow to sensei away off in the bleachers. I still lost, but homeboy knew he'd been in a fight. Ah, doesn't a heartwarming tale like that just make your whole damn day?
So, after that, and a wee bit tipsy, I walked back to the station, got changed in the bathroom straddling the little porcelain canal embedded in the floor that passes for a "toilet", and headed back to Tokyo for Midnight Mess, the industrial club night run by that dude I was mentioning that I might do a show for. Yugo used to live in San Antonio and speaks perfect English. Furthermore, he is a really cool, laid-back guy who plays some crazy, harsh noise terror music. I wanted to ask Sana, the girl I met at A LA MODE earlier, to go but I think it wasn't really her scene. The night is in Shinjuku, the epicentre of Tokyo's nightly baccanalian revels. Kabukicho, to be exact, which is a quite charming Yakuza-controlled neighbourhood filled to the brim with passed-out drunk businessmen and free-range vomit of uncertain origin and stray cats and "massage" parlours and soaplands and panty-less, mirror-floored cafes and every other feasible sleazy cash-for-nudity endeavour you could ask for. A completely unreasonable amount of mulleted/feathered pimps and blase-looking hoes hawk their wares openly in the street. The pimps actually outdo the hoes in most instances with the flamboyance of their peacock ensembles. Anyway, it was a good thing the club was on the outskirts of all this, because aside from "Interesting for the first time...from a moving car" type anthropological sightseeing, my interest in that particular je ne SAIS [editited to placate the French Grammar Milice] quoi is basically nil. As it was, eating instant ramen on the curb with a bunch of drunks and drag queens and a dude holding an animated conversation with himself was ghetto enough.
So MARZ, the venue, is underground, and black as my heart. It is also the size of a studio apartment, and the claustrophobia is not enhanced by the wierd glow-in-the-dark streamers the promoters have seen fit to hang everywhere, at decapitating height for an outsized roundeye like myself. But, it was serviceable. Bleak, spartan, vaguely threatening: perfect for a night of grinding hateful noise. So, first thing I notice is that the spookies here are much closer to the ones at home than the Goth Lolis are; Lolis like soft gentle theatrical shit with lots of props and poetry recitals and the like, not tool box thrown down concrete stairs music and corsets and pvc. Second thing I notice is that literally half the bar is populated by whitey. An entire US navy contingent helpfully takes up all the sitting space downstairs beside the dancefloor, so I just wander around wordlessly, content to people-watch. The doors opened at this place at 12:30, and it went until 6. This is because a]it is impossible to get home after midnight as all the trains stop, so you might as well dance the night away, and b]because Tokyo is this dizzying termite mound in which no one bothers to sleep, apparently.
luker_laughed: It is basically Coruscant.
Drinks are purchased with little coins that are distributed by a vending machine RIGHT NEXT TO THE BAR, which was hardly the most puzzling thing I saw that night. Heineken is procured in favour of highly uneven local brews and then I bask in the warm fog of a million cigarettes. Forgot what that was like, and my lungs reminded me the next day, what with all the dancing and shouting and acting out I did amidst that toxic haze. People here like to smoke. Like, 1940's film noir anti-hero quantities of nicotine, every day. They smoke with such gusto I wouldn't be too surprised to see some dude conducting open-heart surgery, or like, getting married, with a fag hanging slackly from his mouth. I suppose the fact that a pack is still 300 yen has something to do with it. Anyway, my man Yugo is throwing down hard-core playing People's Republic of Europe and Soman and Terrorfakt and Sonar and all sorts of crazy shit and I'm liking it. The other DJ, Maya, also lived in the States and speaks pretty good English, and she's dressed in this totally scandalous S/M geisha outfit, with a licentiously cut kimono over this PVC dominatrix battle rattle, and she was dropping some brutality on the decks too. I was loving it, even though most of the Japanese spookies, the ones I actually wanted to talk to and make friends with, were plainly too cool for teh sceeeeene and apparently would rather lurk in the corners embracing the darkness than socialize. Maybe I should have just gone up and rudely imposed myself on someone, because relying on other folks to take the initiative, especially in Japan, is a recipe for disappointment. Ah well, there's always next time.
So then, the music goes quiet and the lights dim [if such a thing is possible in a bar catering to goths], and Maya takes the stage and informs us that no photography is permitted for the following performance, which is a sure-fire indicator that you will DESPERATELY want to photograph whatever is about to transpire. This is the make-or-break moment when you wonder if you're going to get your money's worth. The reason? And I quote: "Girl's gonna get naked". Uh, sure. You know, when I heard the first faux-ominous minor-chord, random-howling-and-scraping-noises "industrial" accompanying track start up, and saw this dude dressed as Dr. Mengele's intern drag this tiny, traumatized looking chick they kidnapped in Thailand with nothing but panties and a button up shirt on stage, I was all like, "Yeah, whatever, another boring fetish performance. I'm going to get a drink." The first few minutes did nothing to allay my suspicions, being the usual "put on handcuffs and blindfold, pretend to choke" routine. The girl was all down with making the obligatory doe-like wounded expressions. But then, without warning, Captain Obvious throws our subject down like a pile of rags and scuttles off. Out saunters this dude in Hot Topic death raver pants and a matrix style tight matte shirt and this goofy white mask. I'm thinking, "Oh wow, now they've broken the WHITE MASK barrier. What next, smoke bombs and lasers? Maybe an acapella rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody?" Well, was I ever in for it. What started out lame and predictable became the most enjoyable bondage scene I've ever witnessed. Not from a titillation or even schadenfreude viewpoint, but simply out of amazement at the incredibly intricate, technical prowess of it. That's how the Japanese are with everything they devote themselves to, whether its calligraphy or juijitsu or hanging a girl upside-down by a hand and the opposite leg, coiled uncomfortably backwards like a ring and playing her like a guitar with various painful-looking devices. Dude was all tying these amazingly complex knots and stringing them through carabiners one handed, while simultaneously threading a piercing needle with the other hand BY CANDLELIGHT. WITH EASE. He pierced her nipple with that thing and then connected the thread to a ring type thing he had on and then did some symphony-conductor poses. The girl looked like this hurt her feelings, although that could have been because she was bent up like a pretzel slowly rotating 4 feet above the ground. Then he severed the fishing-line cord with the candle flame and went to work. Now, another thing that earns this mack-daddy respect is he's not afraid of a little of his own medicine, either: he tested the wax on his own tongue before giving her the business. All the while, instead of trying to look scary and domineering, he has this huge shit-eating grin on his Visual Kei makeup'd face, letting his actions achieve the desired effect, not some stupid poses. Need girl to turn around so you can get a knot from her armpit to the cuffs? Don't just push her, spear her mouth with two fingers and twirl her on the suspending rope like a hooked fish. Done with the candle? Put it out on your tongue. Inventive little touches like that. Then all the lights go off and my man starts twirling twin little floggers on the end of yo-yos that glow in the dark. It was like ravers with their glow-sticks on strings, except each revolution resulted in PAIN. Of the other kind, that is. The performance ends with our subject sprawled out motionless showing no sign of life, and the now unmasked assailant plants a gentle kiss on her cheek and strides off without a word, completely satisfied. It took people a few seconds to recover enough to clap. Again, I totally don't get off on that stuff at all, but I have a lot of friends who do and I understand it from an intellectual, if not visceral emotional sense; but this was just cool to watch from a visual, creative standpoint. It was the most flamboyant, exuberant such performance I've ever seen. Usually they just consist of a couple of ugly fat people pretending to whip each other and making stupid noises like a birthing cow. Here's a dude who earned his title of "MASTER", like he had to study at some obscure, mist-shrouded mountaintop bondage monastery to get his sadist black belt. I'm sure this guy, Mira Kurumi, has no trouble at all finding new victims, the chicks were just eating him up with their eyes.
_incognito_, you would have loved it. In your pants.
Both victim and aggressor then joined the crowd like nothing happened and had a merry old time dancing the night away. Refreshing lack of rock star BS, it was. The girl was like five feet tall and looked 15, I wanted to ask her if her parents knew where she was but I never got around to it.
Then, this boy-and-girl modern interpretive dance outfit with matching loincloths and fallout-victim makeup went on. NEXT.
[although, I must admit, the one part where the girl flailed her ponytail against the floor like her neck was a nunchaku, until it all burst open and flew wildly around her body like a black butt-length halo of hatred was pretty cool]
Then, thirty minutes of ADVERTISEMENTS FOR OTHER CLUB NIGHTS. It was like a live-action Gothic infomercial. I gather this is fairly typical here but I absolutely couldn't believe it. When it was suggested that we go to some event in Roppongi, a notorious hangout for drunken American military personnel and fresh-off-the-boat riffraff looking to start trouble, I shouted "hoka no gaijin, iyada", which means "other whiteys, don't like them, y0", which got a few nervous titters from the crowd. Oh, and after that some 40-something balding gothic whitey with eyeliner and some drag queens had a birthday thing on stage. FOR TEN MINUTES. They handed out these little things that explode with confetti when you pull the string. I aimed mine at the tranny's crotch. I sat in disbelief at the edge of the floor making "please hit me with an anchor" faces until the agony ceased. At least Yugo was playing This Morn Omina in the background.
Then CHAOS ROYALE played. I would have given a standing ovation to fucking Liberace after what we had just endured, but I was totally not ready for the sheer magnitude of butt-kicking that was to transpire. Dude is this tall, skinny, shaven-headed, angry-looking caucasian with glasses, so he's already in my good book. Then he just completely ASSAULTS his knobs and switches with abandon, basically throwing his hands in the air, and waving them around like he just doesn't care. The guy's website details all that he's broken, equipment and himself, in his musical career:
(totals updated after each gig)
Broken Bones: 3
Burns requiring treatment: 3
Drum machines: 4
Mic Stands: 1
Synthesizer Keyboards: 2
Effects Pedals: 3"
And the music hits you like a ton of bricks made out of live barracudas with brass knuckles on, this pitilessly distorted industrial hip-hop with hella sick-ass breakbeats and dislocating sub-bass rumbling your ass right off your body into a bruised pile of goo on the concrete. It was brutalizingly noisy and rump-rotatingly funky at the same damn time, fool. xdingbatx, you would have dug it big time. Naturally I surge to the front of the crowd and promptly have a seizure, wordlessly and instantly creating an invisible but impenetrable force field with a four foot radius. Which was a feat, because even the aloof J-goths were throwing down and flashing gang signs and raised fists and middle fingers. No, that was just me. But yeah, it was great. You know that if you end a show and the titanium framed glasses in your cargo pockets still get bent just from DANCING and beating your head on the railing, not even moshing or anything, that you have had a worthwhile experience. Halfway in Maya comes out in her pervert kabuki outfit and strides around the stage, straddling the barrier with a shapely thigh-high booted leg and generally stirring things up. She got all up in some people's faces with some "worship me, insect!" poses but did not step to me because it was quite obvious I was channeling the demons within or some shit off in the corner by myself. Man, I love that sweaty, exhausted, pleasantly worn-out warm glow that spreads through your entire body after a good dancing session. Reminds me of...something else. That's when you know you got your money's worth. That's when you know what it is to be alive. At one point cracker drapes a mic stand in a camouflage cloth, douses it in lighter fluid, and sets it on fire with a blowtorch. He then SINGS in to this thing for a good thirty seconds before forced to retrograde. A brigade of employees bum-rush the stage with firefighting equipment, clearly forewarned for such an occurance. Simply awesome.
Homey was rocking so hard even he couldn't believe it.
He should have done the whole show with just that one pose right there.
Then it was 6am, and the birdies were singing in painfully bright morning Shinjuku, with the detritus, both human and otherwise, of last night's revelry strewn everywhere like an explosion at a hobo factory. I'm on the street on my own again. Apparently I'm not hip enough to get invited to the cocaine-and-blowjobs, or in this case, energy drink-and-panty-sniffing, afterparties. Same as back home, no sweat. I wanted to visit my host family down in Zushi in Kanagawa, but it was too early in the morning to politely phone so I hopped on the train and rode it round and round passed out dead for three hours. That was some good shit. Then I went down, travelling the same train lines I remembered with crystal clarity from a decade before, and was there. Zushi seems really upscale and happening, with lots of hip little shops and restaurants and nice houses. It's a beach community and property values must be huge because its really relaxed and non-urban yet still close-ish to Tokyo. Well, the streets have changed completely since I was last there, or at least the businesses that I used as landmarks, so it took some doing, but I found the Tsukakoshi's house right where I left it. Widened by about 4 feet and with a brand new third story, no less. Haruo, my host dad, must be the Alpha Salaryman by now to finance this mint. Any other country in the world you'd just buy a new, bigger house, but property tax law and the price of land highly discourages that here in an attempt to avoid too much liquidity in the housing market and so they just built another house on top of their old one. I still recognized it, but barely. Haruo has white hair now but otherwise host mom and dad looked exactly alike. I was totally out of it with fatigue so I had a shower and a nap right after my greeting, and then another one after lunch, and then another one before dinner. Yeah. But, they were happy to see me and really proud of my new job and how well I remember Japanese. I gave them a big 'ol bottle of Crown [bought in Gunma and with the Japanese tags torn off. Cheating, I know, but it was actually cheaper here than to buy it where it's made because sin taxes are so trivial]. They have a new dog [apparently he's a bhuddist reincarnation, because he's a German Sheppard too and they gave him the same name, "Goro"] and their house is totally huge and palatial by Japanese standards, I was impressed. Not as impressed as I was at that particular moment with a bed and a pillow and clean white sheets, but still. My exchange, Akira, was there too. With his totally charming wife and 10 month old son, Sou-chan.
This is the first, and the last time anyone will see me in shorts and sandals. They were bundeswehr shorts, and I was wearing a Feindflug shirt, so my c0re credibility is somewhat salvaged.
Yeah, this has gone long enough. I have to go home and play with my new Heckler & Koch G36C commando carbine [airsoft gun] and convince the neighbours I'm a threat to national security.