Monthly Archives: September 2011

A part of nature

We think about it but only for a second, as is our wont, brain-service, pretty ideas. Apparently there is a large typhoon coming to meet us as we vacation in Tokyo, it’s gonna shake our hands a little bit, tell us what is up. Because we have not looked it up on the Internet or watched about it on television, it exists only in the real world, where nothing is real. Ignoring reality I go to Akihabara and buy a couple Famicom games at Super Potato, which is a name that makes no sense in any language. Jessy goes to Shibuya for clothes shopping at the trendy Shibuya 109 department store, where it is a virtual certainty that even the maintainence workers dress better than me. I’m gonna meet her in a few hours to give her time to buy stuff, but before we split up at Akiba station, my woman idiotically suggests that we spend money and buy some decent umbrellas, because it “might rain.” I tell her it is a stupid idea because carrying umbrellas is for rat finks, but fork over the clams anyway and tell her to get me a nice one. One hour later, as I push past the Gundam Cafe, which is deserted, I witness a teenage girl’s umbrella being ripped from her hands by a massive gust of wind. It implodes on itself forty feet in the air, metal pieces and vinyl careening end over end like it just bit the end of Char Aznable’s MS-06 Zaku II machine gun. She emits, as though a weak-battery klaxon, a pathetic whimper, and is instantly soaked from head to toe by sheets of rain. I pretend in my mind that she also explodes cause of the force of the rain and another, tinier her is forced to eject from within, to safety, to refuge. To avoid her same fate I let the spring down on my umbrella so it collapses shut around me like a comically large hat, point myself down, and proceed under heavy fire. Suddenly, for the first time in history, I am a rat fink.

Amidst this ridiculous tropical storm, I missionize: I’m off to the Akiba Mandarake store, a multi-floor complex of rare games, anime, figures, toys, comics, and freaks like me (the freaks are not rare). The store is named “Complex,” which is a fact you could find out if you visited their website, where you would also see that on this very day, they are closed for store inventory and renovation. My sneakers, over five years old, slosh with each step as the water seeps in through sole holes. There is no more room for the water to go. When I arrive at the Mandarake I already expect it to be closed due to the weather. Instead it is closed due to the pre-existing condition, which somehow dampens me from the inside. I turn around to meet a like-minded kindred spirit behind me, a homely boy with pudgy fingers gripping his tiny shit umbrella desperately. Exchanging no words our faces droop in soggy disappointment. It is time to take refuge in the least terrible place to be stranded: the greatest arcade in the world!!!!!!…? It is called HIROSE ENTERTAINMENT YARD. It has an entire floor just of shooting games, and the floor above that is entirely fighting games. In the arcade, which was teeming with people yesterday but is essentially my vacant playground today, I drop 100 yen into Night Striker, a sit-down cabinet with flashing lights on the sides and the loudest bass, man-shaking bass, of any video game I have ever played. It is one of the greatest experiences of my life and is over in six minutes, “ha ha ha.” Here is a video of some other schmoe who is lucky enough to have one in his garage playing, which will convey to you a fraction of the greatness. Look at the sides of the monitor frame, there are MOTORIZED FUCKING LIGHTS that zip around as you pass through the streets. This game along with Hideo Kojima’s 1988 Snatcher to me is the complete typification of late-80s cyberpunk Japanese animation and gaming and owes no small debt to Blade Runner and by no small debt I mean “massive debts.” I probably need one of these in my house whenever I get a house. Anyway here is a video, oh my god. (This is the U.S. cabinet but they’re pretty close whatever.)

Later, after I have exhausted all possible avenues of primarily non-moving entertainment possible by myself at 1 PM on a weekday in Akihabara, I hop on the Yamanote line and meet Jessy in Shibuya. We decide to leave Shibuya for Yokohama and stay at the hostel we have booked, and fast. Curiously, however, virtually every train out of town has been closed due to wind. So we rush to the one that hasn’t and buy a ticket. And then, as people smash out of the gates and toward the gates, they announce “yep this train is closed now hoo hee hee.” And I feel like I am at a concert again, surrounded by a thousand people, no literally probably more than a thousand. We decide it would be nice if the group “ebbed” us over in the direction of that stairway, but have little choice in the matter, like the flakes of Oreo left over in your coffee mug of milk. We go only the way we are sloshed, and finally emerge broken mans. There is no refuge–even the walls of the jewelry stores are packed with people who cannot stand around outside cause of the rain and wind, and cannot leave cause all of the trains are closed. Having nothing to do we push up the street into Shibuya, away from the station, where it is getting dark but the lights make it bright, and notice a huge tree in the middle of the road. This tree is special because it has landed on a taxi. Instead of trying to clear the debris or help in any way or even allow support personnel to the scene, dozens of Japanese do as the Japanese do and huddle around, trying to grip their umbrellas tightly so they don’t blow away, holding their cell phones in the other hand, pushing around each other to snap the best picture. This is so insane that I laugh out loud like a diseased banshee, the deranged caterwaul of a pleasure-seeking feline echoing in the streets. But not before I take a picture like a serious piece of shit.


In order to waste time, maybe thinking that if we wait around long enough the typhoon will hurry up and magically disappear and all the trains will open up again and we will somehow need to go somewhere in Tokyo and stay the night despite having no place to stay anymore on account of we had to cancel our hostel reservation in Yokohama since we could not get there, we decide to pop into a little ramen place and eat so much food that I literally split in half down the middle and all my guts come out in the street and I die and I am now dead as I type this. But after we eat, the hot reality sets in. In our hands-off approach to our vacation we have been thrust into adventure, exactly what we desired! Stuck in Tokyo, weather-a-ragin’, people all around us, and no plans–nowhere even to sleep! Gracious!

There are a few ways to sleep overnight in a Japanese city that you cannot leave and do not live in. You can rent out a karaoke box all night, or go to a manga cafe and lie in the room while your body stink drugs you to sleep, or (generally, only if you are a male) visit one of those fabled capsule hotels where you doze in a little pod in the wall like at a mausoleum. But if you are On The Double, and maybe want somewhere to shower and relax, which is to say if you are looking for a hotel, you are probably going to find something that calls itself a hotel but is not actually a “hotel.” Yes, you will invariably stumble upon the infamous “love hotel.”

Can I tell you what a love hotel is? A love hotel is an infamous part of modern Japanese culture, a generally ritzy, tacky affair with ridiculous, usually themed interiors and exteriors where you can go in and get a room for you and your new(est) honey to share. The trick is that you might only want to share it for a little while, know-what-ahm-sahn, so you can choose to “rest” rather than “stay,” with a “rest” coming at a reduced rate. The only reliable way to actually differentiate a “real” hotel from a love hotel is seeing if they offer a rest rate. If they let you pay less to stay less, bingo! It’s a love hotel. Stranded in a foreign city, looking only for a place to stay on short notice? Good news, world-weary traveler–you are about to sleep somewhere that people mainly use to fuck!

Price of admission

Conveniently, we are stuck in an area of Shibuya called Dougenzaka, affectionately nicknamed “Love Hotel Hill” because of the concentration of love hotels on the hill up behind Shibuya 109, where Jessy was just purchasing clothing hours before. The decision is made easily–tonight is love hotel night–but the matter of selecting a place in which we are allowed to pay small fees for the privilege of performing the duties of consenting adults proves a trickier task. I personally am sort of into the idea of staying at the most depraved-looking one we can find, with the bright lights and the weird names, but we end up stumbling into one that has an exterior decorated like a Japanese rock garden, and I figure this could be it. Any doubts I have are allayed when, as we ponder the selection of rooms (each one has a picture and prices by it) on the large selection wall, I notice a classy, suit-wearing middle-aged man emerging with his elegant middle-aged lady from the elevator. Having, presumably, just finished his business, he stops in front of the payment window, which is barred off so you can see only a glimpse of the elderly woman behind it, offers two crisp bills through the slot below, and says “thanks for every time we visit.”

My mind races with questions!! Is this woman he’s with just “today’s woman?” How often does he come here to be on such friendly terms with the payment lady? Doesn’t it make the woman embarrassed that her man has, in front of her, thanked the love hotel payment lady for ALL THE TRIPS HE HAS MADE HERE? None of the questions matter on any functional level though, for I already have all the information I need: for one reason or another, this literal mother fucking man has a favorite love hotel. He has been around the block, he’s seen what’s out there! And he’s made this his go-to, his number one. Must be a classy joint! If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me! We push a little electronic button on the wall next to our lit-up room, and it de-lights. The lady slides a key under the window. In our room on television there is a laminated plastic card that informs us the adult cinema channel is channel A2. I push it immediately, and see a woman being used somewhat how a cow works, except you put all the milk inside the cow first and then it shoots it out. Good christ did I type that? We change the channel after about 30 seconds, fully 18 seconds longer than I was mentally prepared to watch. At the head of the elevated bed, in our room decorated traditionally Japanese and the air heavy with the stale smoke of years of post-coital fumes, there is a small paper package containing two condoms. I feel sorry for anyone who has entered this room in the past, finding themselves wanting for one more or left with another to spare. I think about it only for a second, as is my wont, long enough not to forget.

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It is big enough to take care of itself

On Tuesdays & Fridays in front of Kosoku Nagata station there’s a man who sings about God, and I wonder if he thinks Jesus rides Hanshin cause that’d be the only person listening. We pass by him like he is noise pollution, like we ignore so much here, though he tries harder than the election vans with their huge black megaphones, all so noisily screaming their pleasantries, as though the phrase “please be kind to me” is really so effective when piped robotically through speakers at a hundred decibels while I’m just fucking trying to sleep in on a weekend. No, this man is after something more, or less. He brings his own little speaker, all worn out like I should be finding next to a couch in 1976, and instead of a guitar hooked up to the input it is a rubber, coiled wire, some of the coating flaking off, connected to a square mike all Orson Welles or some shit. It is covered in a hand-crocheted little cozy, though I cannot determine if the man crochets or if this was made for him by someone, and who? Who would make it? I imagine him in the shower, imagine what he’s thinking about. Gotta get moving out to the station this morning. Got some new things to say cooked up. Gotta make sure my speaker battery is charged up. Does he eat fish for breakfast? Does he ride his bike to work or walk? What does he do when he is finished? When is enough enough? What can anyone hope to accomplish, assembling together their personal thoughts and shouting them to the abyss, to all who pass by? Ah ha ha.

The teachers in this school have over the course of the last three hours completely disassembled an old printer with screwdrivers in an effort to remove the ink cartridges, now that we’ve received a shiny new printer. I assume they know how to change the ink cartridges the normal human way, which raises two possibilities. One, they are doing something to the inside of the old printer I cannot possibly comprehend, the result of which seems to involve them removing the ink cartridges and putting them into the new printer. Two, they are wasting time to seem busy. There are three of them there, and one of them just removed about twenty screws. He seems to now be putting them back in, having done nothing apparent. They are chuckling.

Starting Saturday I will have–thanks to weekends, two national holidays, and three nicely timed uses of paid vacation–nine consecutive days with which to not go to work. Jessy and I have “made plans” to “go” “somewhere,” which means we have done literally nothing regarding the planning of this time off. Will we go to the north, where we have already been? The south, where it is 190 degrees? Somewhere close and affordable? Somewhere impossibly far and expensive? Will airplane tickets magically appear in our hands, or will we actually have to take action in order to execute this trip? Get back to me on Saturday, as we have a huge argument around 2 P.M. about how terrible we both are and how it is not [my] fault that we never planned anything about this trip four months ago, before making plans definitely to “do something” “this week.”

Lately I wonder more acutely than ever what kind of person I am. Common wisdom from “the wise” suggests that it’s never too late to change the kind of person you are, never too late to learn, always time to grow and get wise and shit! But I’m thinking, what if I’ve already got it figured out? Is it okay to be happy with myself, flawed as I am? I figure I’ve probably got some behavioral flaws, some mental flaws. What if I feel like I’ve tried all the alternatives and I like this way better? Maybe the people who are wise aren’t really so wise. Maybe in being what the wise people think is unwise, I will attain true wisdom! In the words of the famous real human Popeye, “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.” In the words of fictional rock band Arctic Monkeys, “Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.” In the words of American President Frank Zappa, “You are what you is.” As stated elegantly by idiots, “You are what you eat.” Obviously these thaumaturgical ideologists have it all figured out. But, knowing that only I am truly in control of myself and must look inside, not outside for influence and inspiration, will I be able to completely judge what my personality is and exactly what I need to do to become and remain happy? Perhaps I will look to the words of a notably successful human. In the words of groundbreaking visionary slash average student Dan Quayle, “I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future.” If only I can aspire to such potential greatness.

– The yen is sinking in value against the dollar. This is good for the paying of my loans, since I make more money when I send yen home to convert to dollars. It is bad when I go to buy grapes, since I make the currency conversion in my head and realize I am spending ten dollars on a bag of them.
– They seem to have installed speakers on my escalator. Through them a recorded woman shouts some announcement that nobody listens to or cares about.
– There is a new Prime Minister now, whose name is Noda, and who it only took eight days to become mired in scandal. On the plus side, the scandal this time did not involve his crazy wife, unlike ex-ex-PM Hatoyama, whose crazy wife claimed to gain power by eating the sun.
– There is a “world cup” of rugby going on right now, which Japan is “competing” in, and by competing I mean getting beat. Rugby is like American Football without any rules and a totally different ball on a field of a completely different size with no passing and with most of the strategy removed in favor of coordinated man-dances.

Tonight’s class will have a new “WORD OF THE WEEK,” which this time is “welcome back,” despite that phrase being two words. I will attempt to say it without adding “mistah Kott-aiuhhh” to the end.