Tag Archives: typhoon

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.

Burgertime

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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As American as rotten breakfast soybeans

This is my second Japanese sports day, but surely my first “traditional” one, which is to say, the sports day which is a product of an entire body of students at one of the most prestigious high schools in the prefecture:

J-pop blaring, multi-dozen hundred meter relays, shirtless boys holding each other up like men riding on horseback lunging for each other’s hats, groups of students charging to grab tug-of-war sticks and pull them back to their own sides, a ten-minute club march with every person clad in full kendo/swimming/mountain climbing/tennis playing gear, a fully coordinated short-skirt dance-team cheering to the High School Musical theme song and spelling the name of my school with their pompoms while the gymnastics team tumbles to-and-fro.  Ceremony, oh god the ceremony, opening, closing, awards… but barely a time mentioned, and less made of the competition than of the teamwork: together you are everything.  There is barely condition for what to make of the individual.  Would the boundaries that maintain our physical shapes break down and render us goo were we to disband?  It is hard to say, but I am erring on the side of “probably, I guess.”  The sights and sound dash asunder any concept of togetherness or unity I ever could have conceived of as a member of American public high school.

I ran in the 100m relay with a “teacher’s team” made up of those of us who still feel spry enough in our age to sprint around a track for the amusement of a thousand teenagers.  All I remember of my half-track jaunt was taking off with the baton, hoping I didn’t fall down, watching my shoes stomp off the ground as I rounded the outside of the track, and the doppler effect of young girls screaming eeeeyaaaAAAAaaa!!!, then handing the baton off again.  Today my legs hurt, but the (male) gym teacher has now gone from a predominant casual indifference at my presence to a recent summons of one of my English-speaking co-teachers so that she could translate his remarks about me: I am so cool, so handsome, and how do they handle the conventions of Jr., Sr., the third, the fourth, etc. in American naming procedures?

My cafeterian lunchtime chopstick proficiency literally shames some of the people I eat with, who occasionally make self-deprecating remarks about their failures with them when it comes to more wet bowls of donburi.  Someone said their mother used to tell them they weren’t Japanese enough cause they’d reach for a spoon (this clashes expectedly with the stereotypical genki gaijin dipshit advice doled out to everyone who is about to move to Japan with a prior support network: “better eat every single grain of rice or they’ll think you’re just another rude American!!!”).  As it turns out, many people from Japan are actually people and not merely just a peculiar object of broad foreign projection.  Yes, some of them walk while drinking and eat while walking or forget to leave the train when it’s gone out of service or pay with the wrong coin cause those fives and fifties can be iffy sometimes.

Independently I might turn to goo, but as a part of society, I am everything.

(Menial daily-lifery recent developments and valuable first-time-resident advice: we went to a store called Nitori (ニトリ) and bought a TV stand (delivered to our door two days later for 900 yen), a washing machine shelving unit, a coat rack, a kitchen rug, a small bedside table, a garbage can, a stewpot, a spaghetti jar, and new pot holders.  It cost like 8000 yen?  Do not go to IKEA.  It is utterly idiotic and the goods are cheaply made and overpriced.  Go to Nitori.  If you don’t, basically you are a jackass.)

Also:

– The TV from Hard-Off that I bought a couple weeks ago is still awesome and used goods in this country are officially amazing,
– Japanese 360 controllers work on American systems
– I made Mabo Tofu but really thick and spicy and chunky and put it on rice and called it Mabodon and it was some delicious stuff to chomp on
– There is an enormous Category 5 “Super Typhoon” headed right for us to make landfall in the next day or two

Sometimes around dinner time, or during strange unrelated parts of my life, I remember what Triscuits taste like, and realize that despite this country’s culinary delights, you can’t ignore the fact that there ain’t a fucking Triscuit around.

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