Night, The Fifth

Since last we spoke a few months have passed. Previously I was stewing in the rainy malaise preceding my journey to Fukushima, a time when I seemed to be hypersensitive to the projections I found swimming around my face dancing from the bright lights behind the eyes that stone gazed me.

Soon after last night’s session all that changed however, as I knee-deeped into cloud consumed snowy mountain-scapes just above the great plain where Fukushima City sits. The “Tokyo Suck” phenomenon which drains all young people from the Japanese countryside of Honshuu (the Japanese island that houses Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo) left its mark on Fukushima city, undeniably. However the time I spent in Fukushima was the most fulfilling and novel period during my first 6 months here in Japan, a period which recently came to a close. After last night’s session (almost four months ago), I made the following list.

1-prepare for fukushima

2-buy first shinkansen tickets

3-after fukushima stint: look for an apartment, find apartment, sign contract, move in a.s.a.p. so the soonto arrive guests have a place to stay

4-move out/ move in

5-acquire everything a flat’s heart desires, including those mint scented chemical pucks for the toilet.

6-Start new Japanese School Year, and new teaching schedule

7-pick up Brian and Lexa from the airport, host them for a week and a half

8-say goodbye to Brian and Lexa

9-pick up Cindy from train station

10-host Cindy in Tokyo for a week and a half

11-say goodbye to Cindy

12- wrap head around the list’s completion which spans about 1/2 of my time in Japan so far, from late February until the beginning of June.

One giant sweeping motion continuously on-to-the-next and the next, followed by the [oh yeah what did I come here for?] part.

How can I sum up the last three months? Since I’ve only been here for six months, it seems rather absurd approaching the matter of relaying half of my time in Japan into one night’s session. Between the majestic  mountain river dam caught colorless, a snowy welcome via white fluffy baseballs that crumble upon impact, a burned down then burned down then fell into being a museum medieval castle, limbo be-branched mountain trails, tuxedoed foot baths, midwinter naked outdoor hot baths, savory egg pancakes, multi-stratosphered sunset drives, pinksplosive arborescence, azalea crowns, skyscraper hidden Buddhist pagodas, sudden bathroom repairs immediately upon moving in, hilarious old men taking apart the toilet in order to retrieve bottle that previous tenants had jammed down the toilet making awkward evidence float to the surface, cheese bearing Wisconsin grizzlies and zoom zooming Zurich touristies, brilliantly shadowed mountain forests, heaven scratching piney groves, bamboo gardens, traditional Tokyo electronic noise music, live folk artists, exhibits, a few embarrassing bar appearances, mountain top monkey hugs, one ‘I took the wrong pill and ended up witnessing hyperdelic “キャラオケ” at an open-till-11 maid café in Akhihabara’, several very exhausting days of talking to all the necessary gov/gass/electric/postal/bank/municipal/cellphone/employer/water/real estate/bureaucratic authorities that are involved in the moving process, two absolutely nasty colds and one fling with an absent throat, hurting one beautiful young woman’s heart and moving way too fast with another, overcaffeinated metropolis explorations, undercaffeinated classroom management meditations, few too few family Skype sessions, new neighborhood unpackings and bar spotting nightings, Bulleit Rye Whiskey cravings, three weeks of J-Pop-Rock-Hip-Hop-Dance cd rentals, ‘Welcome back to Nakano, you long time no see bar regular that I don’t know yet’ tequila shots, hundreds and hundreds of Kanji flashcards, a  few kagome juice boxes, 50 cat café kitties, exactly two ‘I’ve finally found the burrito I’ve been craving’, and one ‘can you reproduce this shape? You can only cut the paper three times.’ riddle — between all those things it’s hard to even consider where to start, what to unravel into clumsy linear strings of letters.

Half a year has transpired since getting a Foreigner Card, meeting up in Takadanobaba with Searic 2 hours late from the Narita Airport, and moving into the guest house in Shinokubo. Since my first day in Tokyo hanging out with my two of my best friends, Searic, a considerable amount of things have changed. Unlike all the “Top 10 Ways Moving to a Foreign Country Changed Me” blog posts circulating and self-validating hooked-up social media addicts u-nonymous, I can’t say that all of the changes I’ll mention are good. I can’t say whether they’re bad. I’m certainly not a better person, and Tokyo isn’t any more nightmarish or less ecstatic than it was before. Some things have just changed.

Night the Fourth’s lull just before the following 3 month windstorm of activities became today’s pause on the heels of a massive domino maze.

My schedule went from a different school everyday, to the same schools every week.

My neighborhood transformed from Little Korea Town into New Nakano. A rather brutal translation puts it well: I’ve moved from New Housing (Shinjyuku) to The Infield (Nakano).

I’ve gone from living in a noisy guest house (read: 8 people, one unsanitary kitchen, one bathroom) that was always cold and damp to a small flat with my own kitchen, bathroom, washing machine, large south and east windows, and good ole fashioned privacy. Curtains on the windows were an added bonus over my previous room windowing the house’s front door for all to see.

Exploring the city has gone from every day to every weekend as Free Time has taken to more disciplined studying, musicking, and thinking as I’ve no more listless listed events down the road pleading for my attention in the present.

Three months ago I finally felt like I wasn’t a total stranger to the western half of this metropolis. Now the matter of being familiar with how this place flows, functions, and philibusters the hours away is relatively irrelevant given that now all the proper preparations are on the table. Subbing for three weeks in Fukushima is over, moving is over, vacating the new lodging to then travel and tourist the cities of Honshuu with friends is over: the empty schedule is potential full.

At first I couldn’t stop freaking out over new food. In fact I still can’t. The food here is amazing. Yet, now and then I open my eyes lugubriously in lament returning to the realm of the living, as being separated from the paradisiacal Burrito Land of my dreams is so incredibly heart wrenching.

After arriving there were aha! moments as I was taught why things are they way they are here compared to my white privileged, male, middle class background. Now I observe things and feel that I may never understand why it is the way it is – which is entirely o.k. After all, while globalization has really made the world seem so much more cookie cutter on the surface, everywhere you go there is still a rich history from which thousands of years culminate into a present day phenomenon. Also, I suppose a little vanilla here and there is ok, too.  The initial aha! became aha? which in turn became hmmmmmmm…

I started off the past 6 months without headphones. I’m starting the next with headphones.

I started the last 6 months reworking classical music repertoire. I’m starting the next with my own music.

I came here listening to Thollem McDonas. ( If you haven’t heard his music, I beg of you – get to it! He’s truly brilliant) Instead of acoustic, virtuosic, equal parts free improvisation and meticulously composed albums by my favorite artists back home in the U.S.A., I’m exploring both the popular and underground electronic scenes here. Tokyo has such a rich electronic music family tree, jumping branch to branch and exploring its various ventures warms the noggin leaving it in a buzz that seems like the only natural pairing to this metropolis’ urban identity.

I came here drinking whisky and beer. These days more and more shochu and nihonshu are entering the mix. Not that I don’t drink whisky or beer, of course. The family is just larger and merrier now, is all.

Some things haven’t changed, I suppose.

I still don’t feel like my Japanese ability is anywhere near where I’d like it to be.

I still know so very little about my surroundings and I’m constantly having new experiences – firsts – maiden voyages of sorts.

I still intend to hold these night sessions, for example.


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