(author's note, all emails are presented in uncool and very un-Tarantino-esque chronological order, the following one is from september 27th 2005)
I have been living here for a month so I shall delightfully pepper my
discourse with japanese words and phrases, if you don't like it, you
can feck off.
I spent the weekend in Tokyo, and using the completely accurate and
unbiased reaction of a first impression, I shall here present to you a
thorough and irrefutable guide to Tokyo life. I didn't get to go to
everywhere in Tokyo, so I'll do it this guide by neighborhood.
Ikebukoru: More like... IkebukoWHOOOOAAAA!
Ikebukoru is neat, pretty much like Times Square in NYC, if instead of
theaters and shopping there were arcades/panchiko parlors and
shopping. There's a KFC and a Wendy's near the station. Ikebokuro is
filled with touristy/normal dressed style people (this is important,
you know where you are in tokyo by what people are wearing). Ikebukoru
is an enjoyable place for all ages, but on a tokyo scale of
crowdedness it reaches a 4 out of 5 people per square meter.
Ueno: Hey Look! Homeless people!
Ueno Park, the Schenley Park of Tokyo, has the largest population of
homeless people in Japan. Also there's a bunch of museums and a zoo
there. The National Museums are very large and impressive from the
outside, but nothing really cool is inside, unless you think Awesome
Samurai Swords and Giant fucking suits of armor are cool. I didn't go
to the zoo. Ueno Park, like Tokyo, is very big, like everything in
Tokyo. There's also a giant train station (all the major stops on the
Yamanote line, see below, are giant malls.) that has a delicious
bakery and a Hard Rock Cafe. 5 out of 5 people per square meter
This is where we stayed, at another giant sized building called
Roppongi Hills, which has a hotel, and a giant mall, and probably
other stuff as well inside of it. The subway station is also right
underneath it, providing easy (aside: Tokyo has it's public
transportation down. The heart of the city is carved out with the
Yamanote Loop line, a sometimes El train that encircles the Metro, it
passes through all of the places I went to (with the exception of
Roppongi, which is inside the yamanote line) from the loop you can
pick up subway lines which run pass in straight lines from one node on
the loop to another node. it's pretty easy to get around, and also
goddamned expensive. end aside) access to Tokyo's major neighborhoods.
There's a good mexican restaurant in Roppongi called La Fiesta, run by
actual latino/a looking people who speak English. I'm pretty certain
everyone in Roppongi speaks english. It's where all the trendy clubs
and bars are where the foreigner touristy types flock to. I was in
line at a Don Quixote (strange and large japanese
supermarket/department type place, but all japanese stores in tokyo
are strange and large.) behind two african type people who spoke
accented english I couldn't place, they were having an amusing
boyfriend girlfriend type argument and also buying $350 dollars worth
of wine/champagne, it's hard to tell if it was cheap stuff or not,
because liquor in japan, even the high shelf stuff, doesn't run so
much, a bottle of Tanqueray is about 15 of our american dollars. It
was quite a lot of champagne. 3 out of 5 people per square meter.
Harajuku: where dignity goes to die, and sanity takes a holiday. or
Harajuku: somebody get these kids a fucking mirror.
Harajuku was like a bad nightmare Hunter S Thompson had. It would have
been an awful trip from which he would have never recovered. Harajuku
doesn't make any sense. Harajuku is something MC Escher would have
had to draw. Harajuku could only be explained in words properly by HP
Lovecraft. Harajuku is, as Col Kurtz put it, "The Horror... the
If Jesse describes Adam as the King of the Goths, then the teenagers
who flock to Harajuku are the gayed up princesses of the Goths.
Seriously. walking down Takeshita (shopping street in Harajuku) is
like walking through some sick and twisted version of the world as
imagine by the CEO's behind Hot Topic. Only a million times less
coordinated. Even the hardlinedest of the American Goth Teen, decked
out in black this and pierced that and metal this and torn that would
look like Opie compared to these kids. It's like they poured glue all
ove Enthusiastsrthemselves and fell into their goth Laundry bag,
filled a shot gun with cold cream, shades of pink, red and black, and
shot themselves in the face, and stuck their fingers into an
electrical socket, looked in the mirror and said, "Now I am ready to
face the world" And the goths are just one example, there are also the
Japanese Punks and Japanese Ghetto Enthusiasts who also give off this
feel. I saw two 16 year old boys dressed like they were in a kanye
west video and thought they were the least embarrassing individuals to
look at. BUT THIS IS NOT THE END. Oh no, what makes Harajuku even more
insane is that the biggest Shinto Shrine in Tokyo is RIGHT NEXT TO THE
STATION. Meiji Shrine, a very large, very beautiful place with trees
and ponds and koi and nature and japanese wedding ceremonies and large
impressive japanese architecture is located less than three blocks
away where the teenyboppers converge, so that when you exit this
beautiful and serene place the first thing you see are three japanese
girls of indeterminate age with terrible bleach blond dye jobs, awful
fake orange suntans, and terrible purplish and bluish makeup jobs and
puffy shirts and shorty skirts that would make a Jennifer Lopez blush.
It's like going to a rave at saint peter's basilica.
(The average tokyo teenaged/tweenaged female feels this is appropriate
day to day wear:
Shibuya: As Mr. Cooper would say.. shiBOO-YA!
Coming up out of Shibuya station is like heading into a battle. a deep
thicket of people surges forth to the edge, where they wait patiently
at the crosswalk. The light turns green. Two 25 people deep lines of
people head towards each other at a quickened pace, will I be
beheaded? Will I be disemboweled? That is what shibuya is like. also
there's a good indian restaurant there where you can order out of a
machine. The japanese are fond of making you put money in a machine to
order, and then hand tickets to some clerk where he passes it on the
cooks. it saves paper and time. It's better and more efficient than
having a human being take your order. Shibuya is kind of like London,
small streets, bright lights, lots of people, shopping food drink.
I've never been to london, but I imagine it to be like Shibuya. 5 out
of 5 people per square meter.
Akihabara: Home of the Dateless Wonder
If you don't know what the words manga, hentai, or lolicon (roricon)
mean, you have no reason to ever go to Akihabara. If you know what
they mean and you prefer to sleep well at night, you are better off
never having gone here. Yes there are cheap electronics there, but you
could probably find stuff just as good and just as inexpensive
somewhere else in tokyo. Akihabara is populated with surging crowds of
badly dressed (revenge of the nerds is a reality) japanese nerd-boys,
the saddest nerd-boys of them all. 6 out of 5 people per square meter/
Meguro and Mejiro: Two Stops on the Yamanote Line
We didn't get off the train at either of these stops. The only reason
I bring it up is because the characters for each of these
neighborhoods respectively mean Eye Black and Eye White. It is
interesting to note that every 77 years the residents of each of these
districts much exchange places with their opposite (or Hoka No Hito)
for one day to see how the other lives. It was enacted in 1645 by in
an Imperial Edict of Emperor Karigyura, who had a twin brother that
died at birth. Karigyura was an unbalanced leader, who even elected
his horse to his cabinet of counsellors Out of silent respect for
their former insane emperor the Tokyoites continue to follow the edict
to this day.
Takadanobaba: It's Hard for Foreigners to say, but sounds hilarious
when you say it.
Another place I didn't go to. There's absolutely no reason to ever go
to Takadanobaba, even if you live and pay rent there.
Emails pretty long, gonna end it just incase you're still reading.
I'll send the next email sooner, as the town's festival is this
saturday, and I get to participate in the traditional Electric
Slide/Hokey Pokey-esque dance-off which takes place in the
shopping/drinking district. Should be a hoot-a-nanny.
From Russia (see Japan) with love,
P.S. I post pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tasteful_tn/
PPS. Cliff, patnik or campbell, tell Jesse I miss his smile.
PPPS. Senator, I think I lost your address mailing address, email it
to me just in case I don't find it.
PPPPS. Smeagol, I've been goin on walkabouts through the mountains, I
haven't met Gollum yet.
PPPPPS. I just realized I still don't have any of the glynn boys email
addresses, somebody hook me up with those.