Posts Tagged ‘japanese culture

01
Feb
10

Black and White in Japan pt.6

I was not prepared for the level of verve I would have for the girls here in Japan. And, I don’t think any man can really prepare himself  for the onslaught of attention Japanese girls eagerly endow foreign men here. If a guy had had the same ratio of beautiful girls coming on to him or finding his charms irresistable back home then maybe he’d have developed the ability to manage his libido…I’m sure celebrities can identify. I certainly couldn’t.

Thus, I was like the proverbial fat rat in the cheese factory those first couple of years.

Joe and Greg witnessed this first hand. The parade of girls I’d march by them into my bedroom, while they sat in the livingroom watching movies or playing guitar. And each girl would give them that same look of utter embarrassment, looking like they wished they could just disappear or die, for she knew, like I knew, like my room mates knew, what was going to be happening in due course on the other side of that thin wall:

As Chic sang, Good times.

I didn’t understand why they weren’t doing the same and eventually chalked it up to they were too busy getting loaded to enjoy the fruits of their notoriety. They were both fairly handsome guys. Joe was even cool, in a bohemian way, young, smart, blond, blue-eyed, a Japanese girl’s wet dream come true. And Greg had this rough outback Malboro-Man thing going, (or maybe that was just my image of him) and he could play the six-string guitar like nobody’s business. I mean, when I say he played the guitar as a complaint, it’s only because he’d do it loud enough to disturb the neighbors and at all hours of the night. My qualms had NOTHING to do with his ability. He was truly gifted and a joy to listen to and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see his CD  and photos splashed all over some Tower Records store window display one day.

But, they just were not into the girls like I was. They’d eventually spread the word and I became known as the Machine among the Aussie community in Saitama. They’d come over to our apartment, loaded down with beers and snacks, and toast “to the Machine.”

But, I couldn’t be the source of the noise that was generating  ill will among our neighbors. It had to be the foreign sounds, I thought. Hell, everybody has sex, even Japanese (maybe not babies, though). I hear them occasionally, the thin walls do go both ways. But, I rarely hear televisions or radios or loud talking, even on weekends. Not at night, anyway.

And I told my room mates just that.

“Come on, now, Machine,” Joe said with a smirk. “That noise coming out of your room is not usual.”

“Yeah, man, it sounds like you’re slaying them with your big, black pocket monster,” Greg added. “I know all you guys are packing heavy!”

“Whoa!” I snapped. “Ok…”

“What?” Greg snapped back. “You trying to tell me that you’re not as big as a…?”

“I said WHOA motherfucker!” I snapped again. “Whoa means chill the fuck out with that shit!”

“What’s your problem?” he asked genuinely alarmed by my reaction to what he probably thought was a compliment.

My problem?” I cried looking at Greg then turned to Joe. “My problem?” I repeated.

They both sat there looking at me, stunned into silence at my outburst. I still hadn’t found the words to address this issue, though. I had actually planned to postpone any discussion of it until I had. Going into it half-cocked didn’t seem wise, considering the harmony of our living arrangement hang in the balance. And they were actually really cool guys and I’d heard Nova room-mate horror stories (kleptomania, assaults, property damage, etc…) so I knew I could easily be doing worse…much worse!

But, I felt things had come to a head.

“Listen fellas,” I said. “I don’t know how things are in Australia and New Zealand, or even in Japan for that matter, but I know how…how I’d like things to be in this apartment, in our home.”

They were still watching me, a little on guard. Greg more so than Joe. My outburst had put him on edge, and I could tell he was a fighter. I pictured him, through my Crocodile Dundee-tinted lenses, as one of those guys who punched people in the jaw as a greeting back home, where bar brawls were probably par for the course.  While Joe looked serene, sharp but pensive.

“I’m a little sensitive when it comes to racial…um…let’s say racial identification,” I began, and I knew I had stepped on a slippery slope. Especially when their eyes started bulging. “For example, the words Nigger, and Colored, even Negro…they just don’t sit well with me. You follow me?”

“What about black?” Joe asked. “Is black okay?”

Thrilled that I’d reached one of them I said almost excitedly, “Yeah! Black is, how do you say it, Sweet as!”

“Sweet as…” Joe said, smiling. Everything was Sweet as with him. It was his favorite phrase.

“What’s wrong with colored?” Greg asserted. “That’s what we call our color…black guys back home. They don’t seem to mind.”

“What can I tell you, man? I ain’t Australian,” I said as calmly as I could, for I could see Greg was still tense. “I’m from a place where calling a black man Colored, especially if it’s a young white guy like you doing it, is like saying, ‘I need someone to whip my ass. Are you busy?'”

They both fell out laughing. I joined in.

“I got you,” Greg said after a couple of minutes.

“I got a question, though,” Joe said through his laughter. “You know I like Hip Hop, so…”

“So you want to know why do a lot of the Hip Hop artist say Nigga all the time?” I said, anticipating where he was going. “That’s a difficult question. And I’m afraid I can’t even answer it. I mean, maybe they like to embrace the horror. Or maybe they think by overusing it they’re defusing it. Trying to render it harmless. Or maybe they are so young that they have no idea how hurtful the word used to be in their grandparents’ time. Maybe they’re just ignorant.  Talented, rich, influential, but ignorant. I really can’t answer that question.”

“Oh…” Joe sighed, looking bummed out. “That’s kind of fucked up.”

“Yeah, we’re gonna sit here feeling sorry for Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Puff Daddy…I think not,” I laughed. “Let’s go get some brews and wake up the neighbors. We can finish this meeting next time…”

“Now you’re talking!” Greg said.

And we lived happily ever after…

the end

Loco

PS: Happy Black History Month to you Americans out there!

06
Jul
09

School Gardens (It’s the little things #1)

As promised, here is the first installment in my new series: It’s the little things…

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Jackie Roosevelt Robinson

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Ebbets Field

I attended Jackie Robinson Intermediate School in Brooklyn, a school literally built on what is considered by most older Brooklynites as hallowed ground: the space that formerly held Ebbet’s Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Yes, that would be the same Brooklyn Dodgers who decided against popular opinion to integrate baseball and the very same place where that color barrier in modern-era Major League Baseball was broken when Jackie Robinson took the field. From Slavery to Ebbets Field in 80 years. And from The house that Jackie jacked, to the White House (which was built with  slave labor jacked from Africa,) in a little over 60 years. Don’t you just love America? Anyway, the rest is history.

By 1980 when I attended the school it was not a fitting tribute to the great man. It was not so much an eyesore as a cataract or an eye cancer. I mean, in the 1970s, NY was financially going through a rough patch and inner-city schools were hit pretty hard. I.S. 320 was one of these schools. But, even in its heyday, assuming it had one, I’m pretty sure there was never a garden on the premises, unless you consider those weeds sprouting up through the cracks in the concrete on the handball court, or those stinkweed trees growing wild alongside the basketball court, pruned by passing trucks, some kind of makeshift garden; ubiquitous dandelions straddling its roots, their parachute-like seeds spread by wish-bearing children like myself (please God, make Stephanie love me.) He didn’t by the way. Goddamn weeds…

The facilities at a Japanese Junior High School aren’t much better. They don’t have generous budgets and amenities coming out the wazoo. They have just the bare essentials to give the students the education they’re entitled to; the quality of that education determined by the quality of the teachers and administrative staff, which is usually pretty decent I’ve found. Just take away the graffiti, the cafeteria (Japanese students eat at their desks) add a doujou for Kendou practice, central heating (Japanese classrooms have stove-type heaters in each room, lit hazardously with matches!) and shoe lockers (for outside shoes shall be removed before entering the premises) and…actually there are many differences. But, there’s one startling distinction found at many Japanese schools: a garden.

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Mokkoku Tree (Ternstroemia Gymnanthera)

Mokkoku Tree (Ternstroemia Gymnanthera)

All of the Japanese Public schools I have worked at have had at least one garden…usually maintained by staff and students. The pond above houses a growing number of rather large turtles (I counted over ten) and fish, assorted lilies and various plants. This Mokkoku tree above has been pruned (剪定) Japanese style (植木の手入れ)over the years. The other pond has what looks to be about hundred carp in it.

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Maybe it’s simply a cultural difference, but I find it very appealing for a number of reasons. For one, just as it’s the student’s responsibility to clean the school each day before they leave (a simple way to develop responsibility and respect for the premises, something direly missing in the public schools I attended in NY) the students are also required to maintain the garden…though I’ve never sensed there was any qualm about it. There seem to always be a number of students just dying to get their hands in the dirt and re-pot plants or grab a net and clean out the fish and turtle ponds. Though the pruning I’ve only seen being done by the maintenance staff for it requires special skills, I have a feeling the students would do it gladly if they knew how or if the tools needed to do it weren’t dangerous.

Sometimes, while the kids are busy in class and I have a free period, I grab a cup of coffee and sit out there and soak up the tranquility. Sometimes I just check out the wild life. Japan is replete with gardens and most are a 100 times more beautiful and elaborate than the one above. But, just having an area like this in a school, for me, naturally changes the atmosphere of the education underway. It’s just a little thing but man do I admire it.

Loco

17
Mar
09

Conversation 3/16/09 – I hate waking up mad, too

This conversation took place between myself and my boy EZ yesterday. Actually it was via my blog comment area but I thought it noteworthy enough to make a post out of it.

EZ: All right, here’s my amateur translation of Sora’s blog post (currently with no comments). I apologize for any errors:

“So I decided to sneak a peek at Loco-san’s blog after a long while. It was the one that introduced me to THAT (当) Blog and this video . Although he has had this experience back in NY, in Japan he has it much worse, saying that he goes through this terrible thing ten times a day, every day. The purpose of this article is to raise the problem of how he cannot hold this kind of dissatisfaction with Japan, especially in light of the fact that foreigners exist throughout Japan we find this type of behavior strange. There is much to learn from the blogs that allow open comments and don’t block opposing opinions since there are a whole lot of opinions to be had.

Of course, such dissatisfaction is good to say and must be said. However, you must take care on how you say it. If you made the same video, you would just get more antipathy in Japan since the seeds of fear for black people have already been planted.

If you are going to relate your opinion, you must stress that such avoidances makes you unhappy. Also, a good shortcut is for black people to make the impression to more and more Japanese people that they really, really want to speak Japanese normally with them.

The Japanese have made firm opinions that all black people are the same as Westernized black people, based on the actions of some black folks, and this is wrong. There are good and bad images of black folks available. Hollywood films and foreign newscasts will show black people as the same and over blow unusual characteristics. Because of that, there are negative opinions about black people in Japan. There are a whole lot of people that have not met a real live black person.

I think that even if there wasn’t such a history concerning Westerners, if black people in Japan were to give the impression that they are against Japanese people, then this new image will just take hold again. If the discussion among the population spreads, as well as the cultural exchange, then a lot of the images might change, however, the opinion that Japanese people have of black folks will probably remain low for the years to come.

Recently, Mr. Loco made a post that included a videos his students graduating from middle school. The way he made his greetings without seeming bewildered was pleasant to see. This is the way black people, or any people for that matter, should relate to these kids. This goes for relating to adults as well.

However, cursing them and calling them hicks won’t open those doors.

Please say the following to the Japanese in their own language: “Hey, Japanese people, if there is anyone among you that looks at us black folks and runs away, doing so will make us very unhappy. We are just like you and we just want to get along.” Because I believe in the Japanese, I think just doing this alone will change things.

It would be good if the government or the administrations would do this, I think, the government and administrations are not as quick to act as we wish. Since we can’t see through a Westerner’s eyes, these tragic events will continue to accumulate. Of course, the media neither investigates it or pays attention to those incidents.

It all starts with a small voice. I’m sure that people that will cooperate will come. From that small voice they will gather into a bigger voice.

However, you must first get the Japanese people to join you. You must appeal to the hearts of the Japanese people. What you did will only inflame the passions of the Japanese people and turn them against you.

Because of that, the calls to cooperate from Debito’s blog are no good. Because of the reasons that can be found here ( http://blog.goo.ne.jp/kentanakachan/e/b06c3f2855a31c29161d62e486a03ad1 ) and the other things that he has written, and his is the only blog that is willing to cooperate, the sincerity and fidelity to this issue is held in doubt. It will just give another reason for all of Japan to hate the foreign-born.

In order for the Japanese society to someday be able to understand, or if possible, to be able to bring about the effect that you desire, by all means, work hard at studying the Japanese language because we really desire that.”

So what this dude is saying is that he also thinks Japanese folks should be mollycoddled when being called out on their racism and ignorance? Fuck that! If they won’t stand for that bullshit themselves (unless they do) then why should we stand for it?

All right, I guess I’ll make a deal. At first, I’ll get on the teevee, get all weepy and pull a Rodney King “treating us like criminals makes me saaaad! We’re just like you, can’t we all just get along?” and see if that sort of groveling to be treated as a human being actually works. If it doesn’t, then it’s back to kicking asses again, whether they like it or not.

Fuck, I shouldn’t wake up mad like this.

ME: YO EZ! My Man, 50 Grand! Thanks for the translation!!!! Otsukaresamadeshita… WOW!
Yeah, you said it, man, it’s a call for more mollycoddling. But, you know what…I’ve been doing some thinking (yet again, long and hard) and I’ve decided that I’m not going to fuel my anger, or allow them to fuel it anymore…enough is enough. The Iceman has cometh! I’m going to re-focus my energy on something more productive and let them be. I know it won’t be EZ (-; This issue is very complexed, and I’m hardly in the emotional shape to tackle it head on as much as I’d like to. I think my issues here are as much a result of the racial trauma I experienced back home as it is anything the Japanese have done, so for the time being I’m just going to deal with my own trauma, and if i can resolve that then I’ll be in a healthier state and better able to see the issues I’m having with nihonjin clearer, you know?

I mean I sat back and read a little James Baldwin (perhaps the most eloquent and intelligent man to deal with such issues) and Langston Hughes and WEB DuBois and then re-read some of the things I’ve been writing and I noticed some similarities but a big significant difference. They mostly came at the challenge the way Sora-san suggested. They Mollycoddled white people, sometimes. And sometimes they threw haymakers with the force of a Typhoon. It was all about timing, and knowing yourself, and knowing your target very well. Plus they were driven by the kind of passion that can only be derived from fighting for one’s home. And, while I live here, and pay taxes and have vested myself as much as one can in a place that one has no idea when they will leave, this is not home. The truth is, though I’ve been living here a few years, and i think I know Japanese people well, maybe I don’t know them as well as I should. So, I’ve decided to take a pause for the cause. Of course I’m going to continue writing…I love this too much to give this up…but, I too hate waking up mad. It’s bad for my digestion and my constitution and my general disposition, and so I’ve decided to go a lighter path for a while.

It’s funny though…I came to this epiphany a couple of days ago and I actually feel different already. I saw the same shit on the train today and my body tensed up but my mind was like “Yo, Dude! Chill!” The words actually almost came out my mouth. And you know what? I didn’t act out (well I did elbow this one asshole who was determined to keep his briefcase between us regardless of my efforts to avoid it coming in contact with me) I didn’t plot my literary assault (something I’m prone to do I’m sure you know) I simply chilled…and told myself something to the effect of “it must be a bitch being Japanese: intimidated by anyone and everyone, afraid of people who are not like you, stuck on a rock in Asia because your culture has made you unsuitable to survive off of it, afraid to look at or stand near a woman for fear of being accused of being Chikan, afraid of not being early for work and not staying late and not going drinking afterwards for then you may be labeled uncooperative…”etc etc. I looked around me and for the first time since I’ve been here…THE VERY FIRST TIME…I felt pity. It’s an awful feeling, feeling sorry for people, and I hated it. I’ve never really felt pity for people before, at least not healthy people anyway. But, maybe that’s it. Maybe I just realized that they are not so healthy, and neither am I. They’ve been traumatized by their society the same way I’ve been traumatized by mine. Mutually inclusive trauma…They see danger in my black skin…I see racism in their black eyes… They’re afraid of what they don’t know, and feel secure within the folds of the familiar, and I’m afraid of being persecuted and dehumanized for that’s what enabled the atrocities that have occurred throughout my life and our history in the US and I feel secure fighting against evil even if in some cases it’s only a delusion of persecution…
Yeah, EZ, I’m at a point right now where I just want to step back and NOT see what I want to see, or what I don’t want to see, but simply see what it is…and deal with it one moment at a time.

It’s the damnedest thing. I’m even having trouble articulating it…but I will, you can count on it. Whatever this is I’m going through, it’s changing the way I view myself and the people around me, for sure, and I think in a healthy, productive way.

But it could be that spicy (tasty) ass Ramen I ate last Friday…who knows (-;

PS: And thanks again for breaking down that post for me…
You are the most righteous…or you got too much free time on your hands between filling prescriptions and what not LOL

Peace

EZ: Nah, I ain’t filling no prescription yet, just applying to pharm school. If that 98th percentile PCAT score doesn’t put me in, then I’ll apply as a JET.

But you are right, though. Being an underemployed bum that I am, I do have too much time on my hand

But shit, though, wow. Hear you talk, you must have achieved the enlightenment of a Jesus or a Jackie Robinson. I don’t know if I’ll ever be that strong, I’d probably be binging at Roppongi bitching and pissing with the Army brothers stationed there.

ME: Tempting…bruh…tempting…sometimes the call of Roppongi (or shibuya or Kabukicho) is like a Siren’s cal lol

Shit, 98 Percentile??? you should be in no sweat.

Loco lite

Lyte as a rock

17
Mar
09

White Night at a Yokohama Love Hotel – Part 2

Your room size and amenities will depend mostly on how much you’re willing to spend. I’m pretty utilitarian and frugal to boot so I usually go for the cheapest room, but on certain occasions I am apt to pamper myself and overindulge a little. And I had planned to do so on White Night, but because of the crowd, room selection wasn’t so much a matter of choice as it was a matter of first come first served.  So, I took the first available room, which happened to be pretty average, not much in the way of amenities.

But, at Hotel Vigado average is still pretty decent. You get the basic package of Jacuzzi tub large enough for two (perhaps even two foreigners), Large flat screen TV with cable (and half a dozen adult channels,) Karaoke, Play Station (in Shinjuku Hotels you get a PC too, but Yokohama is not Shinjuku)

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Here you can see a fairly large bed, a leather-ish love seat, and a glass closet. This is a typical midsize room. Those are Karaoke mics hanging on the wall.

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Nice sized flat screen TV, with Playstation and DVD (etc) Player. The Karaoke is wired into the television so with the Universal remote control you can pretty much control all of the electronics.

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There’s a refrigerator, a microwave and a vending machine. Some rooms have vending machine with all kinds of sex toys and sexual aids in it, but this room didn’t. )-; Gomen ne.

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The vending machines has all kinds of beverages and some munchies but I highly recommend you stop at a combini (convenience store) before you come because: a) leaving once you’ve checked in is “discouraged” and b) the stuff in the machine is, yappari, a little overpriced. The vending machines are wired directly to the cashier in the lobby. You’ve already paid for the room in advance of using it, However, when you return the key they will charge you for whatever you purchase from the vending machines. There’s beer, wine, Pepsi, Oolong and Green Tea and of course water in the machine. I think those are Cup of Noodles in the munchies compartment but I’m not sure. I always try to go to the convenience store first.

 

 

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Big bed…typical comfort. Instead of a mint or a piece of chocolate, though, you get a couple of complimentary condoms (a little tight though for me so I’d bring my own if I were you.)  They’re on top of the tissue box on the right. Those sliding doors above the bed hide the windows. The room appears windowless to, I guess, maintain an illusion of timelessness. Besides people don’t come here for the view (-: Also at the head of the bed is a console that pretty much controls all the room effects that the remote control doesn’t cover.

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This console controls all the lights, heat or AC, ventilation, music (it  a satellite radio and receives stations from all over the world live I believe. Yep, you can control the mood up in there if you control this thing.

 

 

 

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Here we have a glass cabinet containing coffee, tea, glasses, etc…cimg0394

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There’s also a vanity with all kinds of cosmetics, and a stand with hair dryer’s and styling irons, etc…I never touch the stuff so I don’t know exactly what you get.

 

 

 

 

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Your toilet is of the super variety. I love these things. This is one of those technologies where the Japanese have done it again. They took something Western and improved upon it leaps and bounds!

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And what’s a hotel room without a jacuzzi tub? A place to sleep, that’s what. Well, Hotel Vigado’s got ’em and I love ’em. Compared to the typical Japanese bathing experience (tubs are so small you practically have to be a contortionist to get into them) they are a slice of heaven.

Well, there you have it…the PG-13 version of a Love Hotel experience. If you have an opportunity, get yourself into one and Enjoy!

It’s not an onsen (y’all know how I feel about onsens) but for the price and convenience, it’s not a bad way to spend White Night or any night with that special someone! My artificial date doesn’t take to water too well so I bathed alone…but at least she isn’t intimidated by my AV watching (-; and very patient, too.

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Loco lite – Taste great –  less feeling!

15
Mar
09

White Night at a Yokohama Love Hotel pt. 1

In Japan, Valentine’s day is for the boys.  The girls buy chocolate and what not and give it to the guys. The Japanese have a separate holiday for the return of these Valentines. Its called White Day. I don’t know why it’s called White Day…I’ve heard because chocolate companies were trying to market White Chocolate…I’ve also heard something about it being associated with powdered sugar, which is also white… Anyway, on White Day the guy is expected to return the favor to the girl or girls who hit him off on Valentines. I received a bunch of chocolates from my students, but most of them were 3rd year students and they’ve finished so I don’t have much favor returning to do.

White Night is a busy date night as you might imagine, and after the Sushi, the karaoke, and the purikura,it’s time to head to…yep, you guessed it: The Love Hotel!

Love Hotels are yet another thing on a long list of things I just Love about Japan. I mean, sure, doing it in the comfort of your own home has its moments, but…I don’t know about y’all, but my home in Japan ain’t got nothing on the Love Hotels.

Compared to Shibuya and Shinjuku, Yokohama doesn’t have much of a selection of Love Hotels, and some them are pretty dodgy. But there are a few good ones. I’d go cimg0371as far as to recommend Hotel Vigado and Hotel Riviera. They are both pretty good and reasonably priced on the weekdays. You can get a short stay (3 hours) for about  3500 yen ($35) or a little more than double that and stay all night.

On White Night it can get pretty busy (and pretty expensive).  Outside of the Love Hotels, like at Motels in the States, there are signs that inform you whether rooms are available or not…They’ll say OPEN or FULL or they might have it kanji. However, if cimg03681you know a little something about how these places work then you might be able to ignore the light.

Hotel Vigado’s FULL light was on…I ignored it.

If you’re going to spend the night you can’t check in until 11pm…unless you pay an extra charge. So if you plan to stay, and you anticipate a big crowd like on a major let’s go play at Love Hotel night like White Night, then arrive a little early. When I arrived the FULL light was still lit (see right) but that’s because couples who did not plan to spend the night were getting their 3 hours of fun in before last train. Somewhere between 11pm and 12 midnight they’ll come out and the FULL lamp will turn to OPEN.

So, what do you do? You cop a squat in the ultra clean, ultra gaudy lobby, done up like a Las Vegas hotel or something, and you wait in special waiting areas where couples sit and try not to die of shame. In one sitting area the chairs actually face the wall so that couples can wait in relative anonymity. front11

The cashier’s window is on the right…she can see you but not well- for your privacy. The three tables and six chairs in the back is one waiting area. Looks glitzy doesn’t it? Very Sparkly. (-;

machi1This is another waiting area. These three alcoves contained couples waiting patiently for other couples to vacate the rooms and the cleaning staff to go in and do their best to remove all the remnants the departing couples leave behind. We do not want to think about the job of these clean up people. Whatever they’re paid it’s not enough.  However, they usually do a pretty good job but I probably wouldn’t want to go through the place with one of those gadgets they had in Ocean’s 13. I might never go to any hotel ever again, let alone a Love Hotel. (-;

paneThe usual process is to enter the Love Hotel, go to wall full of glass panels that looks like something from “Jeopardy” and select a room. There are various levels with various amenities and sizes, and of course various prices. I tried to get a close up photo of the panel but because it’s glass and lit up it’s very difficult to shoot… and besides nothing makes Japanese  patrons waiting in the very conspicuous position of everyone knowing you are there to fuck  more comfortable than a foreigner with a camera, right? So, out of courtesy, I only shot this one very quickly. Gomen ne.

cimg0372What you  can see are two prices for room number 608. One price is for a short 3 hour stay, and the other price is for overnight, as I mentioned before, about twice the 3 hour rate. The prices are lower during the week…If the panel is lit that means the room is available.  There’s also a picture of the room and a brief description of its amenities. Can you see the bed in my reflection? Maybe not.

Once you’ve paid the cashier, you pop in elevator and up you go! The elevators are very nice and the hallways are all marble and glass and lights as well with lots of plants and flowers. It’s not luxurious but you get the feeling that they spared no expense which is a good feeling for a place you’re about to sleep in (at some point) to have…deshou?cimg0373

Want to see what inside the room looks like? I bet you do…

To be continued (-;

10
Mar
09

Anti-Acts of Retaliation #1: Cock-Blocking Chikan

I could feel the awkward pressure against me, his subtle insistence that I move when moving was unnecessary;  ample space awaited him in the other direction I discerned with a glance. If this were NY I would’ve thought he was a pickpocket or nutcase…but this is Yokohama, and the mere fact that he was touching me voluntarily was a red flag in and of itself. What’s he up to?

At the next station the doors slid open and more people filed in. I am accustomed to being surrounded by what my boy EZ calls the “Gaijin Perimeter” (a perimeter Japanese tend to place around foreigners, regardless of crowding, in their effort not to come into contact with them) whenever I ride the trains. Sometimes this perimeter is huge, sometimes it’s pretty tight. The size varies from day to day but it’s always there, and I’ve learned that anyone who dares to enter my perimeter usually has an agenda. This guy did. Once the perimeter is breached, I’ve learned, then others will follow suit, as if the initial breacher had informed them using some secret Japanese masonic-like code, “come on in…the water’s warm!”

And, that’s how it went this morning. People filed in, glimpsed me, in all my conspicuousness, hesitated (or froze causing a logjam) then, noticing the breacher’s rather close proximity to me, decided I must be ok and bounded for any available space. To my left was a High School girl, traditional uniform, skirt hiked up rather high but no higher than can commonly be seen on any given day during any season. She favored one of the kids who had graduated from my Junior High School a couple of years ago, Kanako. Kanako had been a trouble maker but after a few bumps in the road we had gotten along very well. When she graduated she’d told me she will never forget me.  This girl kind of favored Kanako but it definitely wasn’t her. This girl was ferociously writing a text to someone, her thumb a tiny blur. The space to my right, previously vacant, was now filled by an office lady, one of the Women in Black, the uniform for freshmen office workers here. My rear was occupied by the breacher. As the passengers boarded, I could feel a stronger pressure upon me. A couple of boarders wanted to get by the breacher to the vacant space on his left, but his hand was holding onto the strap over my shoulder with a grip that would impress an undertaker. So, they had to squeeze around him.

The red flag became a fire alarm. With not only the option of moving but the insistence that he do so coming from his fellow nihonjin, he wanted to stay close to me?! What the hell?! I turned around for the first time to glance at this guy.  In sync with the turn of my head, he upturned his face and took a closer look at the train’s ventilation system. It fascinated him. He’d never noticed before how intricate yet practical its design is…at least his expression said as much. He was your typical salaryman, dark suit, striped tie, a little shabbily groomed but decent enough, 50-ish. He had a briefcase in his right hand and nothing in the left. Could he be a pickpocket? I couldn’t even imagine that if he were he would mark me as a target. Though my wallet is a little overstuffed and swells my back pocket, it’s mostly because of the 15 or 20 point cards I keep in there: Yodobashi camera, Bic Camera, Sakura ya, Yoshinoya, Jonathans, Gusto, Starbucks, Mister Donuts, KFC, my favorite massage parlor in Yokohama (no happy ending but really cute skilled girls), an oxygen cafe in Minato Mirai (with flavored air), etc, etc… never know when you gonna need a point card.

I turned and faced forward as the train pulled away from the station. I could feel his breath on my neck. It’s a very unusual feeling here, for me, to be breathed on. It smelled like this morning’s Nattoo, Miso and rice and fish…and I counted my blessings that I’m spared this torture most mornings (thank god for xenophobia…)

The girl beside me suddenly almost dropped her cellphone. She caught it, glanced at me kind of coyly, brushed the hair out of her eyes, and went back to thumbing her message. Which reminded me I need to send a text to my student to confirm our lesson that night. Suddenly the girl beside me jerked, almost indiscernibly, like she’d been pricked with a needle she’d been expecting, and sort of half glanced behind her, like if she were checking the shoulder of her blue jacket for lint.

Suddenly it all fell into place. His position behind me, slightly to my left, and his  resistance against being moved from the position he’d coveted. I knew what the perimeter breacher was up to.  At least I thought I did.

At the next station, a good number of people got off.  Some from my left headed by me for the door to my right. I watched peripherally the breacher make way for them, actually exiting the car and standing on the platform. After the last departing passenger had exited, he let a few new comers board before him. Without him there within my perimeter attesting to my civility, the first few people of the new swarm hesitated then fled to available spaces as far from the perimeter as possible. Once he boarded and headed back to his position behind / beside me, attesting to the safety of the area within the perimeter, the swarm behind him closed in. Again he grabbed the strap over my shoulder and let the swarm push its way by him, like a man holding onto a tree branch just before the cascading 100 foot drop of a water fall.

That was enough confirmation for me. He was chikan…definitely.

The high school girl was still thumbing away apparently oblivious to the efforts  this guy was making. I had actually been pushed closer to her so that now, involuntarily, I was up against her too a bit. My left hand, which held my briefcase, was against her thigh. Once the train started moving again, I tried  to switch my briefcase to my other hand so as not to be mistaken for the one enjoying this ride, but it was tightly wedged against her…as was his.  Judging from his height and hers, his hand had to be wedged in the crack of her ass. And with the shortness of her skirt he was probably wedged under it. How convenient for him.

I glanced down but all I could see was her navy blue skirt…then, when the train shifted a little I caught a glimpse of her white lacy underwear and a yellow hand on or in them. I couldn’t tell which it was so quick. So, I had to decide how much I wanted to be a good Samaritan (it has become an issue since I’ve been living here treated in a manner that makes me actually pause and question whether I should get involved or mind my business)

Suddenly the train jolted and I thought to use this opportunity to switch my briefcase to my other hand…but before I could another idea just popped into my head. Pretending to be thrown off balance I thrust my briefcase between the guy and the school girl, knocking his hand away from its position.  Then I  grabbed the strap above the school girl and held on as tightly as he had. I could feel his effort to get me to shift back to my previous position so that he could do the same and resume, but I held fast. A few moments later the train jolted again and I felt a strong, sharp, determined elbow against my ribcage telling me, “move motherfucker, this is my catch of the day!”  There was nothing passive about this guy.

The train was pulling into the station at that point so I relinquished my grip on the strap.  As it slowed, sharply (must have been a trainee driving the train) the elbow that was against my ribs thrusts into me…purposely, I suspect, but it could arguably have been an accident. It hurt. Hurt like it had been done by someone familiar with how to disable people with a blow. I turned around to face him but, suddenly, he realized he hadn’t finished studying the ventilation system yet. Perhaps he was some sort of engineer. I took a strap again, urgently, like I’d lost my balance again, only this time it was a strap on the other side of him, and in doing so I just missed elbowing him in the back of the head by inches. He’d ducked when I reached across him. Fuck!

The doors opened and I watched him get off. I turned to check the school girl, but she had queued to get off the train through another door. By the time I got to the platform the chikan was nowhere in sight.

Since this occurrence some time back this has happened a ridiculous  number of times.  I used to think anybody who touched me on the train was either crazy, or in an unavoidable predicament where they had to-either they were pushed by the passengers behind them or their simply was no place else to go, or maybe they were reading a manga or sending a text or something-not paying attention to where they were going and found themselves within my perimeter, or they had something more important on their minds…something that overcame the gaijin-fear instinct that seems to guide everyone else’s movements when in my vicinity.

But, I learned that day that i was wrong. in some cases, maybe once or twice a week, it’s to get close to some woman. And if I’m in the vicinity I cock block them…

sometimes…

Loco lite (-:

(Taste great, less filling)

06
Mar
09

Lighten up, Loco

I’ve been doing some thinking…a lot of thinking, actually. For the most part I’ve focused my blog on Japanese people, culture, customs and idiosyncrasies, and the highs and lows of living among them, as well as the effect of xenophobia on the soul. What I have ignored to a large degree is the issue of other people living here who also have a significant effect on ones experience here: other foreigners.

I’ve touched on it several times. I’ve discussed why avoiding gaijin is in your best interest but in that post I focused primarily on the haters. The hex that Japan tends to put people under has long since worn off of these folks (assuming they had been enchanted in the first place) and they have become like dope fiends after the dope is all gone, only once it’s gone- this spell- it’s gone. And there’s no methadone to replace it with. Most turn angry. Angry and bitter! Angry at the people still under the spell (high) or in the process of being spellbound, angry at the people they hold responsible for putting the spell on them (the Japanese mostly), and angry at themselves for being weak enough to be taken in by what amounts to an obvious delusion. Some were that way already and just reverted to form.

Yep, I said it before and I’ll say it again: Avoid them!

But there are other types of foreigners here, and sometimes they’re just as relentless as the haters.  I won’t try to categorize them because in the end I’ll just look like a fool because no one fits nicely into any category, not even Japanese people. So, for the purpose of this entry, I will focus primarily on why they have given me pause- these others.

Yes, just like on that island on “Lost” we have us some “Others” here, too.

“Lighten up, Loco!” says one of these others. “We’re all in this together.”

“Stop behaving like a petulant child,” says another other. “That’s  so old hat.”

You are the problem!” says yet another other. “Japanese fear of you is warranted. You’re creepy!”

Some of the comments were in response to entries like those under “acts of retaliation” or any entry in which I express any negative thoughts about Japan or Japanese people, or, god forbid, retaliate in anyway. The responses seem to be designed to make me feel ashamed of myself, like somehow I should know better (I guess due to my 5 year tenure here or the aptitude or potential for good thoughts and deeds I’ve demonstrated in other posts I’ve written, or because I come from another planet where tolerance for impertinence and irreverence and inhumane treatment is a virtue), chastising me for behaving and responding as I do to Japanese disrespectful behavior. Some of them are just hate-filled because, well, let’s face it, some people are just fucking hateful.

Some of them seem to be pushing towards enrollment in the Kneel and Suck it like a Good Gaijin and Stop your Miserable Complaining Already College of New Hat Thinking.  Their school motto is: Japanese, regardless of their behavior, are not the problem at all! You, and pissing moaning malcontents like you, are the Problem. My retaliating and, in some cases, my very presence here is the problem and if  it weren’t for gaijin like me, gaijin like them would be 10 times better off…so I should join their ranks or, better yet, go home.

The other option is the Whisper Words of Wisdom, let the Japanese be University. Their school motto, which has a similar goal but slightly different tone as the other, is: Passive Aggression and Patient Positivity Produces Incremental Improvements…they maintain that by accepting life as it comes, and loving Japan as it is regardless is the only way…and if you don’t agree you should go back to your den of multiculturalism, or whatever rock you slithered out from under, and leave Japan to us significantly wiser folk who’ve managed to survive here for decades, without going Loco- thank you very much…

I ain’t mad at either of them, really. They both make good, if not, great points, and I value their feedback. I’m serious, I really do. And if you read my responses (and I do try to respond to everyone…I rarely censor unless it’s just noise or nonsense or blatant lies I’ll have no part  in distributing) you know that I take my time and try to be as thoughtful and thorough as I feel the comment is due.

But, sometimes…

There are foreigners here (no names…you know who you are) whose comments have lead me to believe that they think of Japan and Japanese as a country, people and culture to be protected, the way parents protect children…like they’re some kind of child race, or mentally challenged people. The benefit of the doubt is extended a little further for them due to their lack of exposure to the outside world (whatever the fuck that means in this day and age). Their inexperience with dealing with westerners entitles them to commit all kinds of indiscretions and transgressions…all excusable under the umbrella of inherent ignorance. An umbrella hoisted and held by some of the foreigners here.

And, if they feel that way, then what does that make me? That parent who spanks or slaps his children in the supermarket? The guy who walks through the streets with his mentally challenged daughter on a leash? The Special Ed teacher who kicks his students in the gut when they get out of hand? Yep…that’s the tone of some of the responses. I should be ashamed of myself. I’m almost criminal.

If my child acts out in the supermarket…you know what? I might pop him upside the head. My moms sure as hell did… And I learned.  I won’t spoil my children and I won’t spoil the Japanese, either, by pretending their ignorance is ok because they live on a tiny island cut off from the rest of the world by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan….because it simply isn’t true. Not anymore. They need to stop trying to convince me that that is a valid excuse for treating me like a creature devoid of feelings.

And the foreigners here who echo that malarkey, who buy that baka banashi (drivel) need to cut that shit out, too.

Trust me…I understand…I live here, too. I know how you feel.  Day after day after day, you hear the same shit and pretty soon they wear you down, and you give in to the preponderance of ignorance around you. It’s overwhelming. You start to say shit like ‘They are a homogeneous people’ and ‘they are  unaccustomed to foreigners’ and blah blah blah fucking blah  and you really start to believe that these are valid excuses for dehumanizing foreigners… simply because 10000 Japanese have told you so.

On my blog I try to illustrate to the best of my ability what it is like for (and in no particular order): 1) a black man in Japan 2) A New Yorker in japan 3) A foreigner in japan.

I think the experience of being a foreigner in Japan is shared by every foreigner here, to some extent. I think being a black foreigner has a significant impact on that experience causing it to be much more, well, let’s just say it’s a different type of intensity than the experience of some other racial designations. And, I think being from New York, that multicultural den of dens, an environment almost antithetical to the one I currently live in, is also significant.  These factors are at the heart of most of my entries.

But, not at the heart of the responses.

Firstly, I need to point out some things that may or may not be obvious. If they are please forgive me.

While the above has happened to me a number of times in New York, it is a regular occurrence in Japan, both men and women, on streets, in shops, elevators, trains, anywhere and everywhere, at least 9 or 10 times a day, without fail. In fact, if it doesn’t happen I’m shocked and I wonder if nihonjin are sleeping on the job. But, I’ve de-sensitized myself as much as one can to such behavior. If you’ve never experienced it then you have no idea the rage that shoots through you, to be insulted and humiliated in that way… like adrenalin on adrenalin. Nor would you know the effort required to suppress it, to keep yourself from taking the offender by the neck and squeezing until they are quite dead…(mild exaggeration) The fact that I don’t is a testament to my good will towards man, even Japanese, and that highly coveted benefit of the doubt that I’m so often accused of not extending to Japanese people though i receive it rarely from them. It is a reward in itself, like surviving water boarding without giving up the location of your family and friends that your torturers wanted so desperately to retrieve so that they could go and kill them all.

But, make  no mistake about it, it is still an ordeal. Every friggin time!

I know some of you are (still) saying / thinking: get over it! or Focus on the good things. Or why don’t you just ignore them? They’re just ignorant. They don’t mean anything by it. Why don’t you just go back home if it’s so bad? Well, what would you tell that guy in the video? Why don’t you stop riding elevators with white people? Why don’t you move to another city where that kind of thing doesn’t go on? Where would that be? Where is this place where I can live without dealing with this?

No, like that pseudo-PSA, and like Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and many others, I tend to deal with serious issues utilizing humor. Moreover, as I’ve mentioned in previous post, I’ve decided to draw the proverbial line in the sand, right here in Asia.

However, not to disregard my readers who appreciate my giving them a prospective of Japan that isn’t devoid of the darker side of life here, I’ve decided to lighten up a little.  Yes, I hate winter, and maybe that’s as much a part of the reason I’ve been feeling really blue and especially sensitive lately as the atrocious behavior of the natives here, and in the spirit of the rapidly approaching spring and the Cherry blossoms that accompany it, I will endeavor to write lighter and brighter entries and keep my venom to a minimum.

…but I’ll never kneel and suck it (-:

Loco




Copyright © 2010 Loco in Yokohama / All Rights Reserved

Please know that this blog is my original writing and may not be reproduced in any way without the expressed written permission of the author (that's me!) Thanks!

Words I love…

Everybody is a star
I can feel it when you shine on me
I love you for who you are
Not the one you feel you need to be
Ever catch a falling star
Ain't no stopping 'til it's in the ground
Everybody is a star
One big circle going round and round

Words by: Sly Stone

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