Posts Tagged ‘sex

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)

08
Dec
08

10 ways NOT to go loco in Yokohama #6: Avoid Gaijin!

The Japanese do it, and you should trust their wisdom. If you follow #6: Avoid Gaijin (Gaijin bars, Gaijin friendly areas and the Japanese girls who dwell there) it can do wonders for your sanity. You would think in a country where the natives avoid you like the plague you might find solace among people who share your fate. Trust me, you won’t.

My reasons for taking such a drastic action have changed a number of times over the years. I mentioned before what I was like when I first came here. How I wanted to be the Kokujin Anjin-san. And so I wouldn’t sit and listen to foreigners bad mouth my new home. Well, clearly I was being a little facetious. Of course I hung out with Gaijin quite a bit in those early days. That’s how I learned that they are to be avoided…at all cost!!!

THIS IS NOT A TEST!!!

For one, I’ve found that when Gaijin get together there are three constants: Alcohol, anger-resentment-complaints, and misogyny (in the case of the men…don’t know many misogynistic women). Not that I hadn’t encountered any of the above before. Hell, America thrives on all three. But, I didn’t come here for more of the same. I actually wanted to escape from it a while. Especially complaining. Why? Because, of the Gaijin unholy trinity above, complaining is my favorite vice. Or, at least it used to be.

Everyone complained back in Brooklyn so your own complaints would more than likely get drowned out in the sea of complaints around you. To be heard you had to complain louder (which was not attractive at all) or raise yours to the level of art form (which was potentially attractive.) The idea was to be creative by finding a fresh angle on the complaint, something that made it compelling to listen to. Or, find the funny in it. Make it clever and witty and make people laugh so hard they almost forget you’re complaining.

I wouldn’t say I was an artist but among my friends I could hold my own.

Complaining, for me, was like a drug: euphoria-inducing and difficult to kick. I thought I might go cold turkey here in Japan. But, in the company of Gaijin, that is not possible. Accessibility is widespread. I’d have to truly lock myself in a room. I can get my complaint fix in any Gaijin bar or Gaijin friendly area in Tokyo or Yokohama, any time of the day or night; occasionally I breakdown, fall off the wagon (in person and on the web)  and indulge myself.  Sometimes I go just to listen to complaints, without participating… Like an ex-smoker sitting in the smoking section of a cafe, or an ex-carnivore turned vegan, dining at Peter Luger’s Steak House in Brooklyn, nursing a salad, salivating over someone’s sirloin…

But usually I avoid them.

And misogyny…fuhgetuhboutit. Many Gaijin here are out of control! The worst I’ve ever seen. Perhaps there’s something about Japan that can make man’s respect of women really tank.  I’m still trying to put my finger on the reason why. The level of misogyny encountered here even puts the level I experienced back home to shame. Mind you, back home I lived in an environment where epithets like bitch and hoe get thrown around like confetti.

Personally I think it’s because foreigners get treated, in general, like shit by Japanese people. A certain level of resentment for the people and the culture develops, and these emotions need venting. Abusing Japanese women is one way to vent, and they’re such easy targets. So, I think it’s partially about revenge. However, this creates a cycle of resentment, distrust and fear that I really don’t see coming to an end in the near future. I’m a little pessimistic so I may be wrong on that tip. But trust me on this one: Avoid Gaijin.

Of course I’m not talking about all Gaijin…they know who they are!

One night back in my early days here I went to Gas Panic in Shibuya after work. It was still early so when I arrived there were just staff people and bouncers hanging around and a couple of customers sucking down Happy Hour drinks. One was black the other was white. They both looked cornfed and had low-cropped haircuts.

The black guy spots me and gives me a healthy welcome. YO! What up, man?”

His greeting made me feel a little homesick. Or rather it reminded me of the part of home I’d gotten sick of and thus it was not a deterrent in any way to my leaving it behind. Plus he had a country accent. Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, maybe. I couldn’t name that accent in 4 syllables  but I knew I was in the right region. Country black folk have a tendency to make me cringe a little.  Even if I listen to Nelly or Master P I feel it.

“What’s up?”

“Ain’t no girls here so might as well kick it with us!”

“What’s up, bro?” the white guy said. Bro? I cringed a little but let it go.

We shook hands, exchanged names (Jason and Jeff) I pulled up a stool and ordered a beer.

“Where you from, Loco!” Jason asked.

“Brooklyn.”

“That’s what’s up!” he said. “I’m from Houston. My boy Jeff here, he’s from San Antonio.” He smiled. I could tell he’d had a few already. Jeff too. Texas ain’t nothing to be smiling about. Texas used to conjure images of Ten-Gallon hats and Oil Wells. Now I think of James Byrd Jr. being bound and dragged around by white supremacist in a pick up truck. Unfair, I know, but it was the most gruesome lynching in my lifetime. Jason here was probably too young to appreciate it and Jeff looked like he could be the Pick up truck driver’s baby brother.

“You in the service,” he asked with a look on his face that said he doubted it.

“Nah,” I said and left it at that.

“Where all the bitches at?” Jason blurted suddenly. “Shit, I came all the way over here from Yokohama for the bitches! Right Jeff? I heard there be  a trailer load uh hoes up in here. Where the fuck they at?”

Jeff nodded his agreement. They were both looking at me like I was a pimp with the answers or something.

“Yo, I’ll be back…” I said and headed towards the bathroom. I passed the exit on the way and made a detour. Once outside I took a deep breath, and headed for the station.

Another day, I stopped at The Hub in Shibuya, again, for a beer. At the bar were a couple of white guys dressed in business suits.  I sat down not too far from them and ordered.

“How’s it going, bro?”

“Hanging in there, ” I said after pausing appropriately for station identification. I don’t know who gave white guys carte blanche to call black men bro but it’s a done deal. They seemed friendly enough though so I let it go.

“You see them girls over there?” the other one said. I followed his thumb to two girls sitting in a booth in the back chatting and giggling. They were awfully cute.

“Yeah,” I said.

“We fucked them two weeks ago, didn’t we Joe? Took them to a love hotel around the corner there and fucked the shit outta them…”

I didn’t say ‘that’s nice’ but I’m sure my face said it. What always bothers me is that some white guys tend to think it’s ok to use the worst fucking language when they talk to me. Not that the language bothers me. It’s just the presumptuousness that I would indulge that kind of vulgarity. Some black people do it, too, but I don’t get sanctimonious with black folks.

“How were they?” I asked cuz they were still looking at me waiting for a reaction.

“What the fuck you mean, how were they? They were fucking great!”

“Then why the fuck they over there and y’all over here? Y’all had enough?”

“We’re waiting for these other two babes now,” the other one said. “They meeting us here in about an hour!”

They grinned egregiously and gave each other some kind of secret pound and grinned at me as if to say, ‘how you like me now?’

I didn’t. Besides I’m not keen on having sex with other guys in the room. I’d only done it twice in my life and the second time I had debilitating performance anxiety. The first time I came in about 15 seconds.

“I’ll be back…”

Another time I went to TGI Fridays in Roppongi. There were three black guys at the bar. Definitely military. I used to be military right out of high school so I can smell a soldier like a fart in a sauna. Plus their conversation about the restrictions placed on them after yet another incident involving a soldier and some hapless Japanese girl was a dead give-away.

“Yo, come over here!” one of them practically ordered upon noticing me. He was drunk. I obeyed. They had a pitcher of something with a head and poured me a glass.

“Here’s to this fucking country!” another said.

“Fuck them!” the third said.

A Japanese waitress, who apparently could understand English a bit, was standing by, smiling. I felt her embarrassment.

“Yo, you restricted?”

“Me? I’m not in the military.”

“What you do?”

“I’m an English teacher.”

“That’s what’s up!” another said. “At a High School?’

“Nah, at NOVA.”

“Man, I would love to teach at a High School here.  All those fucking mini-skirts and…”

“NOVA? Man, you must be getting mad pussy! How the fuck you get that gig?”

“Just applied and interviewed and what not.”

“How they treat you over there?” another one said. They all just kinda blended into one. That’s the goal of military training and it was a raging success with these three. They were a unit. I almost said ‘can’t complain’ out of habit but I might as well have said ‘y’all know how it is’ cuz they reacted like I had.

“These fucking Japanese, right?”

“Make you wanna choke the shit outta them!” Another said.

“After you fuck the shit out of them!” the third added.

They all laughed kind of lewdly. The waitress was still smiling. 100  buttons all over her uniform. One read “Kiss me I’m Irish.” Another read, “English OK!” Our eyes met for a moment and I saw a flash of irritation, then it was immediately replaced by her ‘would you like to order some appetizers’ customer service smile.

“She’s cute right?” another said. “I’d like to choke her with my dick.”

They all laughed. I grimaced.

“You know what fucks me up the most? I can clearly see why we shoved two nukes up their asses! They’s about some arrogant mother fuckers, ain’t they?”

“Word!” another agreed. “And the only thing standing between the Dear Leader- Kim Jong- whatever the fuck his name is- shoving a couple more up that ass is us! And they got the mother fucking audacity to be putting on airs with me. When they should be worshiping my ass like the Buddha!” He looked in the direction of the waitress standing by. “That bitch there…you know what she did?”

I almost said ‘what’ instinctively, distracted by my musing about a trip to the “bathroom”. I looked at him and I could tell he was waiting for the ‘what.’ I’d fucked up his rhythm.

“I’m sorry. What?”

“Man, stop your fucking whining,” another one said. “Can’t you see the man ain’t trying to hear about your failed conquest? Nigga fucked one waitress at Outback’s one time and now he think he’s the fuckin’ mack. Motherfucker, it was luck!”

“And,” the other added, “As many bitches as there is up in here. you need to stop whining over that button chick and get back in the game, nigga. You embarrassing yourself, and us. Shut the fuck up about that bitch already!”

“You right, you right! But that was some foul shit she said!”

“Bitch don’t know English good…what the fuck? Cut her some slack!”

“She supposed to be the mother fucking ‘English Ok‘ bitch up in here! How the fuck they gonna claim they got English speaking staff while they got this bitch and she don’t even know the difference between mother fucking…”

I whipped out my cellphone and snapped, “Moshi moshi!”

“Ima doko?” Where you at?

Roppongi ni iru.” I’m in Roppongi.

“Hai, wakatta. Mata ne.” All right, got it, later.

“Well, fellas…booty, I mean, duty calls. Gotta run! Thanks for the brew!”

They bought my fake call, I think. I didn’t care. I left.

Another time I was in Roppongi, at some bar. There were two cute girls sitting at the bar chatting and giggling and looking entirely approachable. So I approached them.

“Hello…”

One turned, looked me up and down, winced a little like some foul odor had invaded her nostrils and turned back to the other without any further ado. What the fuck! I looked myself up and down, gave my underarms a quick sniff… No odor, nice suit, decent shoes, and I had a fresh shave and a haircut. The look she’d given me reminded me of the look some Japanese people would give me on the trains…a snub that wanted to be seen and felt. It also was reminiscent of the look club chicks in NY would give me. I’d accept it from the chicks in NY, but from these Japanese chicks? They had to be outta their fucking minds…

“Fuck is your problem?” I shouted. “Motherfucker say hi to y’all, respectfully and what not, and you give me your ass to kiss like you all that! Bitch, you ain’t shit!”

They were both looking at me, a bit stunned at my outburst. I wasn’t even sure what had prompted it. I’d never done anything like that before. I was more likely to walk away with my tail between my legs or pretend I hadn’t said anything to them. I’d never gotten aggressive with women in clubs before. Never! In NY it wouldn’t have been wise, anyway. Might get your ass maced.  Something about these girls just rubbed me the wrong way.

The bartender came over and said something to the girls in Japanese, they kind of offhandedly indicated in my direction as if to say but this one over here can’t take no for an answer…

The bartender was your typical skinny, friendly, perfect hair, half-gay looking Japanese guy. But the bouncer he’d signaled to come over to the bar was big and black and mean looking.

“Yo, is there a problem?” he said but it felt like he said ‘do YOU have a problem?’ His voice sounded like he had a zero-tolerance policy that had nothing to do with the bar’s policy. It was his personal policy.

Still, I didn’t like the way he presumed I was the problem and not these innocent fucking Japanese girls.

“Why don’t you ask them?”

He looked me in the eyes, deep. And he seemed to move a step closer to me, though I don’t think he did. “Cuz I’m asking you!”

I don’t know why – he was twice my size and obviously not accustomed to being challenged by sober people- but I didn’t back down. “Yeah, there’s a problem. You the problem solver?”

“That’s what they pay me for!” he said, but he had lost a little of his edge. “Why don’t you let me buy you a beer and we can talk over there.”

I liked his tone now. “Sounds like a plan!” I said. “Smells like rotten sushi over here anyway.”

We walked over to his station by the door. A waitress brought me a beer.

“Where you from, man?”

“Brooklyn,” I said.

“Word! I’m from Newark!”

“Fucking Jersey?” I almost laughed. New Jersey is a joke, and the punchline, to New Yorkers. But, Newark ain’t the funny part of Jersey. Newark is to New Jersey as Brooklyn is to NYC. “We’re practically neighbors. How long you been over here?”

“Too long!” he said. “But, ain’t shit happening in Newark so what the fuck!”

“I feel you, bruh,” I said. “What up with them chickenheads over there?” I said referring to the two girls I’d practically accosted.

“Man, don’t fuck with them. That’s this Yakuza cat’s daughter and her friend. They ain’t worth it. They like to come up in here, mini-skirts up to here, thongs showing, dancing like freaks on ‘X’ to Hip Hop and dick teasing motherfuckers. But, everybody know who they is except niggas like you just come through for a breather. So, sometimes I gotta straighten some niggas out, but, you seemed pretty real,  and you ain’t been drinking so…”

“Damn, yo!” I said. “Good looking out!”

“You lucky they don’t know English,” he said, and smiled.

Loco

Next up:#7: Escape fromYokohama!

19
Nov
08

Gaijin hijinks

There used to be a hilarious English comic strip in Japanzine magazine, very popular in Japan, about a loser from Canada who comes to Japan to teach English and, by virtue of being un-Japanese, becomes super popular. It was called Charisma Man. This was before my time (I arrived here in 2003charisma-man) but it remains kind of an icon among expats over here. The idea being that Japanese people, women especially, dote over unworthy foreigners simply because they are different, and in doing so transform these losers, inflate their egos and create superheroes, at least in the Charisma Man’s mind. Man, does that comic strip ring true.

I won’t say I was a Charisma Man but I confess I got more action over here and…better quality is overstating it a bit, but let’s just say the J-Factor unbalances the scale and the mind, and gives Japanese girls an unfair advantage over anything I got back home in NY. And, it was comparatively easier to get and easier to maintain. So, yes, sometimes even I made the mistake of believing that my so-called conquests here had something to do with me personally. Like a fool.

It didn’t take very long to realize that in this land of monotony, I was attractive solely because I was considered exotic. You learn that once you’ve seen enough Japanese hotties holding hands with guys you know have never even seen a pussy back home unless it was strictly a cash transaction. In NY, there’s a lot of everything so, for us, exotic is a tall order. We settle for slightly unusual. Maybe that helped me regain my balance quicker than some others. The bliss I was mainlining was derived from my idea of exotic. Asian women remained in that category simply because in NY they were virtually inaccessible.

But, not here.

The Charisma Man phenomenon can get pretty ugly when you go to a bar, let’s say some Gaijin watering hole like The Hub, and there are about 100 or so of these superheroes, some aware that they are Charisma Men, some completely unaware, bumping heads and dicks over the buffet of Japanese college students and office ladies who came there to be entertained by gaijin hijinks, practice English and satisfy their curiosity. It’s a madhouse. That’s Tokyo on any given night.

The other thing is I’d come to believe that the consummate Charisma Man, to Japanese eyes, looks like that picture above, and I decidedly do not. So, while he is doted over disproportionately (no wonder he loses all perspective), I was relegated to the Hip Hop Hoes who are usually attracted to the images they see of black guys in music videos, which, in their eyes, I do resemble. Rarely did I come across a girl who was interested in anything about me after they established that I wasn’t in Tokyo producing a music video or performing or dancing in one. Unlike that charasmatic hero above, I was never asked was I an Investment Banker or any kind of businessman. Always sports or entertainment…or worse: military.

“You are English teacher? Ah sou nan da. Sugoi! Oshiete kureru no?” (You don’t say. That’s wonderful! Can you teach me?)

“Moshi nihongo oshiete kure nara oshiete ageruyo…” wink-wink. (If you teach me Japanese, sure I’ll teach you.)

Add a bunch of banal questions about Hip Hop and about New York ( I wasn’t above producing my NY Driver’s License as exhibit A either, because, well, NY is a good conversation piece and selling point, not to mention a lot of African cats claim NY as their birthright, as well, so bona fides can help seal the deal) and, basically, that was the extent of the game I had to bring to get the majority of the action I got. The rest was just a matter of setting up the first date, if necessary, which often had a happy ending at a Love Hotel or an Internet Cafe where she can fantasize she’s fellating Snoop-Dog or Nelly and I can notch my belt and have something to write about. No language exchange takes place unless you count my explaining how to talk dirty in English and her hollering “Iku!” (I’m coming) But, everyone goes home happy and none the wiser…

Or, do they?

The ease with which this transaction transpires can have an adverse effect. You come to take it for granted. And, in a society where many of the girls tend to look, dress, act and think the same, you come to expect the same results each time out. Also, you begin to see all Japanese girls as the same, which is far from the truth. You don’t notice cause you’re having the time of your life, but in reality you’re standing at the apex of a veeeery slippery slope. One false move and down you go, and where you’ll stop, nobody knows. Your soul is on the line. Many foreigners here say fuck it and go for a ski.

And, so did I.

I can’t speak for all foreigners over here. Different people have different experiences here. It all depends on how they choose to deal with the challenges they face here. One such challenge I think we all face is saying no to booty. If cuties throw booty at you simply because you’re a foreigner, you could say no. You could ask that booty throwing cutie, do you like me for me, or do you like me because you think I dance like Usher, sing like R. Kelly, pop it like it’s hot like Snoop? Because my skin is dark and chocolatey, and you think my dick is bigger than a liter coke bottle? It’s your choice. And, in doing so, you may retain your self-respect.

But, to me, in Japan, that’s gay! (-:

Loco

16
Nov
08

Home Alterations pt. 2

Brooklyn is still Brooklyn, and probably will always be. But Bedford-Stuyvesant isn’t Do-or-die Bed-Stuy anymore. Everybody remember the Bed-Stuy of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing? Granted it was a caricature of the real Bed-Stuy, but not a gross one. Well, out with that old Bed-Stuy and in with the new. Bed Stuy’s being renovated, rejuvenated, resuscitated, gentrified, diversified, pacified, revitalized, reorganized, and pasteurized…Pretty soon you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish it from Fort Green or Clinton Hill.

You know that song: in a New York minute? Well, it’s on point. Shit happens really quick in the big city of dreams!

I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean, even before I moved to Asia change was well underway. But, when I’d pulled up to Ma’s house, the brownstone two-doors down (where an aging black couple used to live) the yard was littered with bikes…about ten of them, chained to every location you can chain a bike in a front yard. And standing in front of the house were 2 guys and a girl, dressed in Halloween get-ups (she was Sarah Palin, one of the guys was Batman and the other was a Fairy) Need I mention they were white?

I used to rant and rave til I was blue in the face about the evils of gentrification before I left NY. Not that I have a problem with white people. Gentrification isn’t white, it’s green. Green as the tree-lined historical Brownstone street i lived on. Green as the green-eyed monster I feel inside me that I couldn’t afford that house. And, green as the million dollars you can pay for a house in Bed-Stuy these days. No, some of my closest friends are gentrifiers, and they’re mostly black. I just took issue with the way it was displacing people left and right and destroying the character of communities, turning every town it feeds on into a carbon copy of the one it just digested.  I used to write for a local paper in Brooklyn, and my articles on the subject were alarmist, totally devoid of impartiality. I was fiercely against it, and as inevitable as I knew gentrification to be, having witnessed it swallow Bed-Stuy’s neighboring neighborhoods of Clinton Hill and Fort Green whole, like some rapacious monster, I railed against it and did all I could to offset the toll it would have on my community. I took it personally.

But, in the end, like Jay-Z (A Bed-Stuy native) says If you ain’t in it for the money then get out the game. And when you come at an old couple rapidly approaching retirement age, like the couple who used to live in that home, who bought the house in the 70’s for 20 or 30 grand, with an offer 20 or 25 times that, it’s a cinch they aren’t going to think about any negative effects their platinum nest egg is going to have on the community they’re abandoning. They’ve done their time. 30 years in the ‘hood will fossilize any heart, and they’re not holding their breaths waiting for Starbucks and Sushi Restaurants to materialize, either. That’s just not their idea of the good life. A half a million can buy you a 2-bedroom co-op in Park Slope but in North Carolina or Georgia? Hell, you can live out your golden years in style.

Ma shared with me how many of our other seniors and some not-so senior neighbors have cashed in and relocated to greener pastures. I ain’t mad at them. I’m over it. Hell, life is short so why not take that long money? Ma doesn’t have a problem with white neighbors, or the skyrocketing property value (except for the increased property taxes that come along with it.) She doesn’t even have a problem with white people, in general. But, she ain’t too fond of the idea of white people living in her house. I won’t be too surprised if she takes in a long money tenant before long, though. She says she’s been getting juicy offers and she’s currently tenant-free and strapped.

I took a shower, threw on some clean clothes and headed out to meet my recently emancipated buddies Sharlene and Wendy. The bar they were waiting at was in Crown heights, on Schenectady Avenue. I parked around the corner from it and as I made my way back I saw a guy standing around the side of the building talking on his cell. I gave him a nod and said what’s up. He gave me a suspicious look. I kept it moving. I got to the front of the bar. The door was locked. I gave it a few taps. I’d been to this spot several times before I moved to Japan, so I knew the routine. it had a new name now but everything else on the exterior looked the same. The door was opened by an overgrown cat, with a no-nonsense I’d do you and your mother if you step outta line look on his face. I didn’t remember him but I oddly felt compelled to say what’s up. He cut me open with a look and nodded me into the lobby where he spread his arms wide indicating I should do the same. He frisked me down to my ankles, thoroughly, like a cop. If I’d hid a single edge razor blade in my Tims he would have corralled it.

Sharlene and Wendy and I go way back, over 25 years, so love-love was waiting for me near the bar, already drunk and mouthing off. We hugged and looked each other over. They looked exactly the same and that was very comforting. They told me I looked thin. When I left NY I was about 240 lbs. Now I weigh in at about 200. 40 lbs in 5 years…

“All that damn sushi,” Sharlene said.

“You eat sushi everyday?” Wendy asked, I thought earnestly.

“Japanese have a lot of different-” she started smiling. “-Funny…”

“Seriously, what do y’all eat over there?” Sharlene asked. I felt a little stab. Like a nailfile in my kidney.

“Who the hell is y’all? I ain’t Japanese.”

“You know what I mean…shit, you been there long enough.”

“Can you speak Japanese?” Wendy asked.

“Hell yeah, I hear him, when we be talking on the phone, yelling at his girlfriend in Japanese,” Sharlene snapped. “You better be nice to her.”

“Oh, yeah, how is she? It’s the same one, right? What’s her name? Yuki or Yuka or Yoko or Ukulele or something like that?”

“Why you didn’t bring her this time?”

Last time I came home I’d brought my girlfriend. We all went out one night and had an awkward time, but there was no bloodshed or damage done so I considered it a success. Bringing your un-black girlfriend to meet your late 30-something single black, where all the good black men at? They with white women or gay talking girlfriends is a little risqué. But, I guess since she was a minority, in America anyway, they cut me some slack.

“She’s busy.”

They were doing most of the talking. Their pace was tricky to keep up with. I kept second guessing my contribution to the conversation. And they didn’t seem to notice, having grown accustomed to my not being there. It wasn’t like this before. We used to have a rhythm, a communication pattern. They might not have felt it but i felt the loss, and I thought it was a hell of a price to pay.

Though a little strained, we managed to laugh and talk for an hour or so, catching each other up but soon I started feeling a little edgy. I was taking in everything about the room. This was the Brooklyn I had been so looking forward to coming home to. Smiling family and friends who know me and can understand me completely. Places where the people who share my values and experience dwell: Home, be it ever so…dodgy?

We sat near the door and I couldn’t stop myself from checking it whenever i felt a draft. The people entering the place were, thankfully, subject to the same search I’d undergone. Several of them looked like they were bound to be carrying. I half expected one of them to pull out and blast the bouncer he looked so shady. It was supposed to be a Halloween party, but unless the guys all decided to come as Fifty-Cent or Wu-Tang Clan, they hadn’t read the advertisement. A number of girls came to, but they weren’t searched thoroughly. They were mostly dressed in the spirit of the evening.  A couple of them wore ghetto versions of Catwoman, Playboy bunnies, French Maids and so on. How do you ghettoize a French Maid costume, you ask? Well, you add some bling-bling and silk-screened nails and put a 170lb sister with an ass that accounts for a third of that in it, that’s how.

I hadn’t been in a room filled with nothing but black people speaking nothing but English in 3 years. I’d forgotten what it was like. This was not the den of diversity that I had been boasting to the Japanese as the America I was a product of. And I had known this all along. I just needed something to use as defense against when Japanese persistently, though I believe unawares, assault me with their culture and philosophy and negative stereotypes about America and Americans. I’d illustrate visions of Manhattan for them to exemplify the diversity of America, to vengefully shame Japanese people. But, in these defensive moments I’d leave out the Brooklyn I grew up in, which however culturally diverse, racially was mostly monochromatic. Now, I felt a surge of my own hypocrisy.

Around me, there were several conversations going on, and one word kept jumping out of every conversation, spitting in my ear: Nigger! Everyone was using it. This is nothing new. It had been this way most of my life and so until five years ago, it was quite natural to hear it, ad nauseam. But, now…after not hearing it for such a long time…it was disconcerting. I mean, sure, the Japanese are xenophobes and some are racists as well, and when I hear Japanese use the word Gaijin as opposed to gaikokujin, and knowing formally that gaikokujin is to gaijin as negro is to nigger, I sometimes think of it being synonymous with nigger, minus the race specificity. But, I rarely hear that word unless I listen to Hip Hop or on rare occasions when I find myself in Ropponggi or Shibuya at a bar where other Black Americans are.

Actually that’s not entirely true. There was this Nigerian cat in Harajuku who’d called Black Americans Niggers in a way that informed me he actually believed that the proper way to refer to African Americans were as niggers. Ironically, he used nigger not only in a derogatory way but also in a deferential manner. It was the first time I’d heard it used that way. I stood there wide-eyed, open-mouthed, while he said shit like, “Some of these Nigerians guys are as lazy as Niggers but…” and  “Sometimes I go to the bars in Roppongi and I see a lot of Africans trying to act like Niggers, but they’ll never be as cool as real niggers,” and “I used to want to be a nigger but I’m a business man. I just play nigger for that Japanese money.” The funny thing is if he had referred to Nigerians as niggers too I wouldn’t have had too much of a problem with it.

And, I’m not innocent of its use. I used to use it quite a bit…never in mixed company, of course (race-wise, not gender-wise.) But, to come home to hear Obama is my Nigger and If that nigger win, man, shit is gonna be off the hook! I felt like I had returned to Niggerworld.

Something else hit me about then. There, among my people, I understood every word uttered. every song played. understood every nuance, every emotion, every everything…and it had become a little overwhelming. I felt like I was a computer that had had its security system on high, blocking all cookies, suddenly having its settings changed to accept all cookies. I didn’t realize how immersed in Japanese culture I had been until then. Nor, the benefit of not accepting cookies. My processor slowed down considerably.

And, noticeably.

“What’s wrong with you?” Sharlene asked, genuinely concerned.

“I don’t know…I feel like…I don’t know. Maybe I need a drink.”

“You driving ain’t you?”

“Ah, fuck, that’s right…One won’t hurt.”

I knew what it was but I wasn’t going to get into it with them. I wasn’t sure how they would react. Living among the disproportionately thin, fashionably and ostentatiously sexy, yet otherwise conservative Japanese had somehow altered my idea of what’s what. The women at this club, for example. 5 years ago I probably would have been thinking damn, if I didn’t have a girlfriend I’d be all over that French Maid. But, now she looks like a woman in a cheesy get-up who doesn’t know she’s let herself go…and why would she? Her sense of what’s what is endorsed by every drooling male eye in the joint. So, I knew it wasn’t her who’d let herself go, but me. I was the one who was gone. And even though I was here in Brooklyn- home- in the flesh, essentially I was in limbo, torn between two worlds.

But, I’d only been home a couple of hours…some kind of culture shock was to be expected. So I tried not to overreact.

Wendy’s boyfriend came in. He’s the owner so the overgrown cat gave him a pound. He came over to me. I smiled and half-bowed only to see his extended hand before me. Shit. I took it and pulled him into a hug to cover-up my slip-up.

“What up, yo?” I said.

“Same ole…business is business. You still in Japan?”

“Yep, still there.”

“Must be good to you.”

“It has its moments…”

“I hear you. How them hunnies treating you?”

“Hunny, singular. She’s good to go!”

“Hunny singular??? Nigger, Yo ass ain’t never coming back!”

“I don’t know about that…” I said, feeling like I was lying. “if Obama pulls this off, and the economy bounces back, I might consider it…”

“Those some hellified conditions, yo…”

“Tru dat,” I agreed.

Man, it felt good to speak English with New Yorkers. But, something occurred to me while I was talking to him. I’d thought about how the guy talking on the cellphone outside reacted to my greeting as well as the bouncer’s reaction and the half-bow I’d given Wendy’s man. In Japan, every time I’d come across a black guy, 2 or 3 times a week, we’d, at minimum, nod in greeting and, if they were African, possibly even make it verbal. It’s like some unsung agreement, a non-verbal understanding, that we’re in this together. This being the quagmire that is life in Japan. In a nod, with a bit of eye-contact and a smile we’re acknowledging the paradise Japan is from time-to-time, and the cultural trappings therein as well as our common daily struggle to keep it together in an environment where doing so is a considerable accomplishment.  At least, that’s my take on it. Africans tend to give more, will even get into a conversation if I don’t snub them. African-Americans tend to give less. I’ve even had them snub me before.

How can i tell the difference between an African-American and a full-blooded African, you ask? (Assuming I can’t hear him speak, of course.) If you’re asking you’re probably not black. So, I’ll tell you. The same way you can tell the difference between a Chinese and a Japanese person. Or an Italian and a British person. Or a Puerto Rican and a Dominican person, I suppose. You either can or you can’t. It took my living in Japan several years to tell the difference between a Japanese and a Chinese person on the spot. I still can’t tell the difference between Korean and Japanese people, though.

Anyway, I digress. The point is I hadn’t left my Japanese habits in Japan. I’d smuggled them through customs into America, a little cultural contraband.

“Yo, I’m gonna bounce…Jet lag is kicking my ass,” I told my friends. It wasn’t a lie, just a little exaggeration. I just needed to get away for a spell.

“OK,” Sharlene sighed. “But don’t forget…we’re going canvassing in Philly tomorrow bright and early.”

“I think I’ll be alright by then.”

On the way home, I was little concerned. Some of my Japanese habits are just not conducive to life in the West. In fact, they could be downright dangerous here in NY.kumkau1

I was feeling a minor buzz from the one drink I’d nursed back at the bar and decided to take a spin around the old neighborhood. It was about 1:30am. I drove over to my favorite Chinese Restaurant, Kum Kau, over on Myrtle Avenue in Clinton Hill and bought some sesame chicken and brown rice and then headed home.

On the way I drove up Franklin Avenue from Lafayette Avenue. Franklin Avenue was the Avenue when I was growing up. If something went down there’s where it happened. If someone got shot or stabbed, it either originated on Franklin or ended up there, or it was done by or done to someone from there. But, The Ave is rich with memories for me and many of my old friends still live on and around it.

As I drove along it I noticed something and I couldn’t believe my friggin’ eyes. Here it was, damn near 2am, and Franklin Avenue was alive…that’s not the shocking part. Between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street, possibly one of the toughest and notorious 10 block strips in the Bed-Stuy I grew up in, I passed about 40 or so odd white people, couples, singles, dog walkers, some costumed, some looking inebriated, just a-celebrating Halloween, or casually strolling, carefree, like they were in Williamsburg or DUMBO.

I didn’t even see any black people. It was like some crazy Twilight Zone episode.

There goes the ‘hood…

to be continued…

08
Nov
08

A little about me and Japan: Part 2-Kokujin Anjin-San

I’ve gone through several phases since my arrival here in the land of the Gods.

The first phase was, well, exhilarating. It was all wonder and surprise, discovery and exploration. The bloom was on the rose. During this phase I guess I could best be characterized as a Japanophile. I’d come here with a profound desire to start a new life; an improved me- Me 2.0. I like to call it my Kokujin Anjin phase.

I’d be that black guy inserting my two-yen into a Japan bashing session at a bar, saying shit like: “Man, how can you say that about these people?” or “You know what your problem is? You think your culture is superior to their culture. You have a superiority complex. You’re the reason you feel unwelcome here. Not them.” i took great pleasure in interjecting platitudes and cliches like, “Be part of the solution not part of the problem,” and “be the change you want to see here!” Yep, that was me. That guy whose head you wanted to crack your bottle of Kirin over.

My roommates didn’t know what to make of me. They must have thought I had gone loco already. I lived with two white guys, a Kiwi and an Aussie, both music lovers, one, a serious guitarists, the other a guitar enthusiast, two of the coolest guys you ever want to meet, both heavy drinkers and a little on the “fuck that, I pay rent just like they do” tip, and here I was, a Black guy…from Brooklyn New York, no less, scolding them for being disrespectful to our neighbors and of our host nation.

I came to the defense of the Japanese in almost any situation. My head was chock-full of Clavell and a wildly romantic image of a Japan that could be penetrated by a foreigner of some intelligence, skill, and with the right mindset; someone like, well, me. I felt I was in possession of the prerequisite disposition to tear through the silk curtain and say, “Heeerrre’s Loco!”

Hell, I wanted to be a Kokujin (black) Anjin-san.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t entirely delusional. I mean, I read Crichton’s Rising Sun, as well as Clancy’s Debt of Honor. Clancy and Crichton (may he rest in peace) are two of my favorite authors, but both I thought did a bit of Japan bashing. And I too wasted 2 hours and $10 bucks on Lost in Translation. Personally I thought it was a boring, pointless movie full of the type of people who could never be Anjin-sans. I love Bill Murray, but I thought his character in the film was too convinced of the cultural superiority of his own world to step outside of it and fully experience the opportunities that this new world, Japan, presented. He was too stuck on its strangeness, like some kind of xenophobe on vacation abroad. No wonder he was lost.

He was the kind of foreigner I didn’t want any parts of, which is why I detested Gaijin Bars. I felt about these bars the way Clavell’s Anjin-san felt about the place where his shipmates were being held, in the district where the “Untouchables”or “Burakumin” or “Eta” or “Hinin” lived. After he’d left from reuniting with them he shed his kimono and demanded a bath. This is how I felt about Roppongi, as well. It was the modern day version of this area, a place where Japanese allow foreigners to carry on like the barbarians they are thought to be. And where low-life Japanese go to consort with and handle the contaminated flesh of Gaijin. I felt about my co-workers the way he felt about his crew: ignoramuses, with a crude idea of the superiority of their respective societies, whether it be America, Canada, Australia, England, France or Germany.  European values, Christian morals, rigid, self-righteous, close-minded hypocrites, the majority.

I couldn’t even spend too much time with other black people. Most were military types who held nothing but contempt for the Japanese and thus were on a mission to be as Gaijin as possible, especially those who’d been here for a while. We call it “showing your ass” back in NY, and these guys love to show their asses. Downright embarrassing. Most conversations I’d have with these guys would inevitably lead to a shitload of bad experiences being spewed at me. They took great delight in what they considered an imparting of the wisdom they’d acquired. Most of these guys regarded the Japanese as unblushing racist as well as proudly, inexplicably and, in most cases, irredeemably ignorant of the world surrounding their tiny island.

The only black people I could talk to were the Africans, ironically. They mostly immigrated (and I use the term loosely) here from Nigeria and Ghana, and I’ve met a couple of Kenyans and one Ethiopian. The Africans are very different. They were not forced to come here, like the military guys. They came here with a certain eagerness to improve their lot in life. Thus, they don’t let racism and xenophobia distract them from their ultimate goal: Make Money! You gotta admire them. I’ve had a very strange relationship with Africans, dating back to my childhood…I’ll get into that in a later post.

As for the African-American soldiers, I can understand their rage. Here they are, fancying that they are the only thing standing between Japan and a Kim jong-il invasion, or Chinese vengeance for atrocities committed against their citizens during WWII, and they get treated by their protectorate like a disease.  Any day now, that crazy maverick Kim Jong-il could launch an attack, and these soldiers would be forced to risk and in some cases sacrifice their lives for people who have the audacity to refuse to serve them at Soaplands and “Fashion Health” parlors all over the country. But, at the time, I was all about making the most of this experience. I wasn’t about to let my brothers rain on my parade.

I wasn’t really a Japanophile, though. I was just being the Devil’s Advocate. Something I do to keep my mind open to the possibilities, to walk in another person’s shoes, so to speak. It’s something I picked up in America and it’s very useful in gaining some objectivity. Part of my motivation for coming here in the first place was to learn for myself about Japanese people and culture. Not to have it dictated to me by a bunch of disgruntled expats and haters.

Instead, it was my intention to take on each new circumstance and every new encounter unfettered by a negative predisposition. And that, to a certain extent, is exactly what I did.  And, I’m lucky I did because during this time I’ve had some of the most wonderful experiences and met some of the most extraordinary people I’ve met in my entire life. Aiko-chan, for one, who would become my greatest experience in this country. In fact, I think this phase ended around the time Aiko was taken from me.

Phase 2 was not pretty. Suffice it to say Kokujin Anjin came to the realization that Clavell’s novels, while thoroughly researched, were written about a different period and about essentially a different people than the ones who now populate this tiny group of islands and, upon this rude awakening, yours truly, to put it mildly, got a little vexed.

More to come…




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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