JAPAN :: 6 action-packed days/5 late nights
I finally made it to Japan! Since a young child I have idealized aspects of their culture such as ninjas, martial arts, the samurai strength & willpower. Later I grew fond of their Zen Buddhism, temples, art, architecture & history. Japan, a land where many samurais once roamed, now replaced by business men in black suits who seek a different kind of power. Most things have changed into a post-post-modern futurism of digital buildings & consumerist culture that for me was overwhelming. But…some things never change. The rice, bamboo & seafood are still abundant. The old wisdom within their culture remains, and can be understood if you are an observant outsider.
Coming from total of 10 months in India & Nepal, two of the poorest countries in the world to Japan, one of the richest was again another cultural shockwave. My 6 day visit was short, but action-packed & full of good times & interesting people, thanks to new friend and fellow music freak Risa. Thanks to her I saw 3 music shows (2 for free on guestlist), went to Thanksgiving big dinner in Yokohama, a sleepover & BBQ in Kamakura surfing community & I met many of her music business friends who were all my kinda people…fellow music fanatics. Thank you Risa for giving me the red carpet style tour of your area! The first day in Tokyo I went on a walk & subway to Shibuya, right to the heart of Babylon central shopping district where thousands of fashionable and well employed youth were out shopping as usual. The crowds were interesting to me as I people watched & compared to India/Nepal big cities. So much money in this country! Probably more than all 1.2 billion + of India/Nepal combined in this small country! These people are all rich…my goodness are they rich compared to 80% of the world that lives in poverty! Yen power! Shop shop shoppin’ til your droppin’! I didn’t see anybody in all of Tokyo that wasn’t wearing new designer clothes & sparkling clean (you know Japanese have history of taking daily baths & clean clothes & when foreigners first came over on ships, and today, we were quite stinky & dirty to them). I went to a music store & checked out all the latest gear (I havnt looked at new stuff since I left last year). Wooo…a new KAOS pad…cool! I didn’t go to “Electric Town” where most technology/electronic gear is sold. Not really in the mood to buy. Just here to observe & have fun & meet people! After Shibuya went to Japanese Garden & park to rest, had picnic including that little bottle of wine I stashed from airplane! That night, Risa took me to a huge 10+ band/djs show at the main arena for sumo wrestling, which rarely has music shows. Got there a little late for dj Krush so only caught his last 2 minutes of sound effects outro madness. The rest of the music was not so appealing to me/us so we left to a techno future funk night her friend organizes at a little club. I was uber-tired but managed not to fall asleep standing up, barely! (should have drinken some coffee). Met some more music friends, & I dug the retro Herbie Hancock techno remix tracks that were most definitely funky & to my liking! Finally after almost 2 nights of no sleep (airplane, then this) we went home around 3:30am. Good intro to Tokyo yo!
black is the color of choice. dressed to impress like a rolls royce. slave to the fashion, and the money you don’t save. you better not show emotions & be well-behaved. if you focus mostly on material your heart grows cold. missing out on simple things in life & then you grow old. where is the love & big smiles wide?
maybe I will go search the old countryside…
That’s very judgemental yes, but what can I say. poetry in motion.
heck, I too like wearing black, spend money freely, and am trying to not show my emotions as us westerners do. The asian way is more introverted and revolves around saving face (meaning not showing negative emotions in public or you ‘lose face’!), instead of freely expressing your emotions like us westerners have from the beginning of time (“adam, your a fucking jerk!” , “hey eve, go to hell!”). There must be a compromise in between the two ways.
Expressing some in healthy way and therefore not repressing emotions, but not getting out of control. I know in my recent life (these travels) I have begun a quest to control my emotions through yogic exercises such as deep breathing/pranayama, uddhiyana bhanda & other asanas, & just being aware & controlling the mind from being negative & wasting energy.
Hard work but worth the battle, the internal battle, the mind
is your greatest enemy, ya know?
I could not believe how quiet & still nearly everybody was on the trams/subways after noisy husting & bustling India!!! Polar opposites! Here space is respected & everybody is so sensitive!
When you sit down next to somebody they get a little nervous & move. In India you were crammed 3 or 4 into a normal 2 seat
space in a bus & nobody budged. Indians held hands, laughed,
talked the entire way every single bus I went on…alive…living
fully with what they have…friendship, open-hearts & conversation. Talking the latest Bollywood or Hindi pop music or relationship gossip. I’m sure there is another warmer livelier side
to Japanese public life that I just did not see. Maybe at their homes, weddings & parties things get looser? Heck, I was only there less than a week so I am no expert on this ancient culture & their modern ways.
Next day, Friday November 23rd…Thanksgiving dinner at her friends in Yokohama (the place I’ve been reading in two Shogun
books – where the foreigners first built a settlement near Tokyo in 1800’s). Now, not so many foreigners. Actually most days the places I went I was the only foreigner in site! I kept noticing how much this tall blond guy with red beard & old faded traveling clothes must look in comparison to them. I stood out, but I’m used to it now after 15 months abroad. While at the dinner party I asked Risa’s friends where I could go to see the poorer neighborhoods, ghettos, homeless & drug addicts of Tokyo…but nobody knew. Guess everybody is rich in this place! They were surprised that I did not eat any turkey & I explained my 99% vegetarian diet last 12 years & that really I am not fully vegetarian but ‘pescatarian’ (seafood eating) as I believe that works for me. I ate lots of stuffing and some fish. To this point I had not drank alcohol in over 3 months and have been purely vegetarian since Europe when I last had some fish here & there. I love seafood, “when I see food I eat it! when I seafood, I eat it!” I lost about 15 pounds in India and am looking like a skinny, but healthy yogi these days. I don’t mind so much as I know I rid myself of many many toxins with that 300 hours of yoga & a few cleansing techniques, but…now I would like to gain back that weight in a healthy muscle building
& diet of more pasta, seafood etc…(got any other weight gain tricks for me???) That night, stayed night in nearby Kamakura,
a very cool beach town/surfing mecca smaller community nearby.
Stayed at Mikee’s, guy part of Cynic Records and that funky techno night. I felt him a fellow kindred spirit musician friend. His music studio & little home with ocean view balcony was very inspiring (see picture). This is what I crave & will manifest soon…someday soon I hope, inshallah! A place to call home for long-term that is near ocean, lots of hardwood, big windows, a good space for music studio, record collection, zen space, silence,
and creating a harmonious home. Ahhhh….how this traveler now yearns for that. Funny huh, we always want what we don’t have.
Maybe I’ll get that & then want to travel again someday, but at least I want a foundation to go back to. Am I ready to buy a house
or should I just keep renting nice spaces like this…? Time will tell. Little 7 year old daughter Nina playful in the morning. We all went for a walk to show me some temples & the beach on our way to the BBQ / Buffalo record label cozy day lunch party. Surfers everywhere around here. I like this place! Surfing & music. The simple life…this is it!
5th day I went to Asakusa to see big Shozeiji Temple area. Impressive! Except for the 100’s of stores & market stalls surrounding it peddling products to tourists (can you tell that I am sick of all this consumerism, especially the cheesy plastic tourist crap?). But heh, I couldn’t find a calendar of zen/japan nature but found some postcard art that style. then I got the heck out of the market & went into old japan style…the temple. Offered a yen coin , clapped 2x & prayed as is custom. Walked around & took more pictures than a Japanese of these old style buildings (they were bombed out in WWII and rebuilt after, so not fully authentic). After walked down to riverside park and had sushi picnic on bench and lo & behold…there was a homeless person!
I gave him some sushi & he was like “Ahhh…tank you very much!” It’s rude to eat in front of people with no food so it felt right to share. His smile was golden! After I went to Harajuku,
and again there the next day. Here is supposed to be a more hip area. There were a few street vendor artists selling on the streets that I talked to…I think that makes a ‘hip’ town if there is original art & vendors that are allowed to sell without getting hassled. 2nd day I came back to see the Emperor’s shrine & temple park area which was another nice rebuilt old style temple grounds that has been occupied & a place to pray since around the year 600 AD I think.
When leaving Japan at Tokyo Narita airport the Japan Airlines check-in employee asked “Do you have anything fragile inside?”
I replied, “Yes, my heart!”