Saturday, August 18, 2007

Memories from the Land of the Empty Orchestra

Many weeks have passed since I departed on a Dalembert Report-funded scouting jaunt to Japan, in search of talent, vistas, and blog fodder. Safely home I now realize that internets allow us to blog from anywhere in the world; "The DR-Live from Japan" sadly will have to wait a year(at least). Instead of wasting time filing scrupulous reports and meeting insane editor expectations and deadlines I chose to relax and investigate the beach.

Between sunny days in the sand and humid nights on the town I had plenty of time to contemplate and absorb my surroundings. I played basketball with a local squad of 20-somethings who taught me the simple pleasures of warm-up drills and a scorekeeper. I waited out a typhoon by closing all the shutters and watching season 1 of 24. I blended in to my surroundings like Waldo in a peppermint factory, Britney at a Penn party, or Pacman at Delilahs. Besides my exclusive use of English, the subtle wardrobe entirely built around Sixers, Phillies, and Eagles shirts, and my 8-inch height advantage over nearly everyone, I barely stood out. I'd like to pass along some of what I observed.

People think of Japan and dozens of predictable images pop into the minds eye: sushi, karaoke, samurai, karate, atomic explosions, sumo, Mt. Fuji, geishas, rice, crazy television, keen fashion, and many other things, some flagrantly racist and others simply sexually disturbing. I'll try to tackle the list one by one:

Sushi: yes they have sushi here. Yes it is good. Yes it is probably much much better than the sushi you eat at the nearest Teriyaki Boy in the mall. Personally I didn't eat much sushi in Japan. There's a lot of other great food that I'd never seen or tried before and I also ate way too often at the nearby Hokka Hokka, a chain in Japan that serves up meat and rice on the fast and cheap. The food here is delicious. If you go to Japan I seriously recommend eating yourself into a disgusting fat stupor.

Karaoke: Karaoke is damn fun. I'll qualify that by adding I sang in tiny bars with almost nobody I knew while respectfully sauced. Would I be equally inclined to offer my version of Bohemian Rhapsody in a crowded American bar with dozens of familiars in attendance? I'll cross that bridge when I reach it. Until then, Karaoke is great. Try it and see.

Samurai and Karate: Stunningly I didn't see any swordsman or karate kids in my time there. I guess they vacation like everybody else in the summer.

Atomic bombs: We bombed the motherlovin' crap outta Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Check that new HBO documentary and feel the weight.

Sumo: I didn't get to see any sumo in person but I am sure it is cooler than anything ever. One aspect of small-town Japanese life I appreciated was that according to my contacts, basically all the fatboys you see are training to be sumos. Isn't that a wonderful system? Replace the stigma of fat and lazy with the honor of fat and sumo and no young boys will worry about body insecurity again. I'm not sure they have a system to displace the negative body-image problems of the fat girls with positive ones but I'm sure they don't.

Mt Fuji: Big famous mountain tourist trap. Never got close top it. Also a big famous female wrestler from G.L.O.W. who filled the Asian role.

Geishas: As with sumo and Mt. Fuji, sadly I was not lucky enough to spend my time with any geishas. I did find Japanese woman to be both attractive and effusely deferential. Oh yeah, no fluoride in the water there(at least where I was) so lots of bad teeth.

Rice: Fuck Uncle Ben's dry shitty rice and get yourself some Japanese sticky rice. Seriously, invest in a rice cooker and live to be 100.

Television: Ridiculous. Most shows tend to revolve around at least 5 people sitting around tables eating food, discussing bullshit, and quipping dramatically about nothing. Big emphasis on drama and intrigue. For my own sanity I watched close to no tv but from what I did see I would say the Japanese took the View and added men, more tables and food, and put it on every channel for 18 of the 24 hours a day.

Fashion: forget about modern styles and sharp cuts, the best fashion tool in all of Japan is the sweat rag. Where I was(Shimizu) was so hot the sweat rag was THE accessory of the summer, coming in all shapes and sizes and even morphing into a do-rag piece that ties in the back and soaks up sweat while knocking down trend-setter jaws.

Before I end I want to thank my tour guides, my cat Gay-Gay, and Bunno sensei.

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