Tokyo Damage Report

life in Tokyo 2:harajuku, kabukicho. culture-shock, Don Quixote


ENGRISH OF THE DAY: saw a flyer for some punk band called THE AVOIDED.

SOUNDTRACK: ‘in the jailhouse now’ – O BROTHER soundtrack

I’ve been in Tokyo exactly one week. Last time I was here, I did so much stuff already. . . went to punk shows, kissed someone, saw some transvestite performances. .. but this time around I spent my first week doing exciting things like . . .GETTING INSURANCE! And TALKING WITH REALTORS!! Gaw, I feel like such a boring adult.

Go to the BROADWAY MALL in Nakano. It’s the coolest mall in the universe, full of toy stores, costume shops, pornographic phone-cards and used fashion magazines. It’s totally bizarre and wonderful. There’s some computer game store there, run by this nice old lady wearing sunglasses indoors. The shelves are full of CD-ROMs. .. . . divided up into categories. There’s a shelf marked ‘business software’ (which is full of porn), another shelf of ‘entertainment’ (also full of porn) and ‘systems’ (which is full of Noron Uilities and Linux open-source freeware.. . . naw, just kidding: Porn) they also have this x-rated magazine called IDOLOID. It’s only got pictures of life-sized plastic dolls. And once again I feel like Homer Simpson when he saw his first Japanese toilet : "they’re YEARS ahead of us!!"


DATE: Sunday june 29
ENGRISH OF THE DAY: sweatpants with ‘MY FAVORITE TIARA’ silkscreened on the fanny
Regular-looking Japanese guy wearing t-shirt reading BLACK POWER.

SOUNDTRACK: "any way you want it" by JOURNEY
‘raining blood’ – SLAYER
"irish spring" jingle
‘kaw-liga" – hank williams

up at noon. Go to HARAJUKU. This is suppposed to be the teeny-bopper version of Shibuya, full of junior high kids in full 1977 punk regalia and insane gothic outfits, and GIANT puffy shoes. But in fact, the scene is dead. There’s no wacky fashion. Which would be OK if the place were empty, but it’s full of boring, ordinary shoppers, and white guys with their Japanese girlfriends, and jerks like me who came to gawk at the advanced fashion, but we’re 5 years too late !!

Anyway, then I go to KABUKI-CHO. This is the sleazy-Las Vegas-style part of Shinjuku. Actually ALL of Shinjuku is sleazy and Vegas, but KABUKI-CHO is the MOST infested with prostitutes, gambling, and porno shops.

I see some old grandmother-type wearing a schoolgirl outfit, some other lady with her whole body tattooed, and some really MEAN looking old transvestites that give me the ‘skunk eye’ when I say ‘hi’ to them in Japanese. But the best place is this one alley. On one side there’s a bunch of porno parlors, and on the other side is a seafood restaurant with a bunch of HUGE sculptures of FUGU out front (fugu is the famous Japanese poison blowfish). . . I just like the fact that a million people have walked down this exact alley before me with a bunch of cash in their pocket and had to decide exactly which kind of blow they wanted.

There’s this OTHER street you can walk down that has a dozen shops. In the windows of the shops you can see posters of porn stars, more porn stars, and more porn stars. . .and then a bunch of posters for pop music singers. 13 year old pop singers. . . Oh, dear. . . .

Plus, both men and women kept coming up to me and asking if I wanted a massage. I kept telling them, "keiko desu" (no thank you). But if they persisted, I told them "watshi no chin-chin wa arimasen" ("I don’t have a penis") .




DATE: Tuesday July 1


Sooo. .. I get up, dye my hair green, put on my best hello kitty leather jacket, and go to my first day of school.


Despite the equal number of male and female students enrolled, my class is an utter sausage festival. Some joker must have told the coeds I was coming, and they all transferred away. . . ! Despite covering the EXACT SAME MATERIAL as my California class, this new class is totally difficult. This either means that I was a horrible student, or that my old teacher didn’t teach us diddley. Guess which option I’m believing?






DATE: wednesday july 2


ENGRISH OF THE DAY: i saw nothing.

SOUNDTRACK: ‘rawhide’ theme song – (dead kennedys version)

‘love will keep us together’ – captain and tennile

‘big black boots- ice cube



Riding Bizzle through the streets of Tokyo, it makes me wonder why the hell Japanese people got so addicted to video games. . .when just trying to bike down the average street is just as crazy and hectic but REAL!!

Also, I’ve been dealing with homesickness by downloading lots of awful American top 40 rap.

speaking of america, god DAMN it’s a weird country. i mean, on the one hand the americans totally like to push the little countries around, and even ignore the other big countries on issues like environment, irradiated foods, weapons research, etc. so americans totally dis other soverign nations OUTSIDE the country, but at the same time we totally accept different immigrant groups INSIDE our country, more than almost anybody else!! you can leave any subway station in any major city and within a block there’s chinese food, italian, korean, mexican, thai, and (in berkeley) ethiopian. but in japan, all you get is 40 identical, foul-smelling fish-noodle shops.

see, i think that’s why the japanese are much thinner than americans. all they have to eat is, like, squid and shrimp and , like, seaweed and junk. i don’t even think THEY want to eat that mess!

i’m beginning to get frustrated. . . this is my fourth time in tokyo. i’ve made a lot of friends here on previous trips, . but – damn- i haven’t hung out with anyone since my first full day here!! they either changed their phone number, or won’t return my calls, or i just don’t understand how to use the japanese voice mail system. arrgh!! i really need help but have no one to turn to. . . . so after class i just go on a 90 minute bike ride to Koenji. i was told there is some legendary toy store called ‘GODZILLA SHOP’. after much sweatiness, i finally find it. it’s closed. there’s no hours posted. and now i have to bike all the way back to shinjuku, another 90 minutes. by the time i finally get lost, un-lost, and have my cell phone disconnect me because i used up all my minutes. . . , my one new japanese pal has left shinjuku!!

i’m beginning to get frustrated.

it’s like, even the simplest things — like putting air in a bike tire, or getting some veggie-burgers — take FOREVER here because i don’t have any friends who speak the language. plus, with no friends to eat into my free time, i could theoretically just study japanese all day. but the irony is, you CAN’T study a spoken language by yourself. you have to COMMUNICATE. so, buh.

DATE: Monday July 7, 2003


. . . FALSIES ON HEAT. . . .

. . . elf gravity . ..

(yes, these are all band names. .)

SOUNDTRACK: ‘chainsaw massacring’ – ramones



*Also, I cleaned my room! (note how you can see the left AND right corners of the room in the photos) I had to stand out side the room to take the picture because there wasn’t enough room inside for both me and the camera!



before. . . .

. . . . and after



SOUNDTRACK; ‘carry on my wayward son’ – Kansas
‘big butt’ – trad.

Spend the morning in a store called DON QUIXOTE. . . which is basically J-MART. Want to get a bootleg palm pilot, some discount socks, Oreos, a refrigerator, and a penguin-shaped vibrator, all in one stop? Come to DON QUIXOTE!

Then class.

Then, nothing happened.






DATE: Wednesday July 10, 2003


SOUNDTRACK: ‘get this party started’ – pink
‘kepone factory’- dead kennedys

Meet my old friend Kaoru, the AKA the Japanese Death Metal Ambassador to Poland. I swear, she’s over there every other month, seeing thrash shows, and hanging out with her blonde boyfriend. Only next month, she’s going to bring two of her friends with her. . . and tonight I get to meet all three of them. They’re all very polite and un-spiky. You’d never know they were multicultural metal marauders until you saw them start eating. I swear all three finished their dinner in 30 seconds. . .it wasn’t a meal, it was a slaughter!



DATE: Thursday july 11




SOUNDTRACK: ‘like a virgin’ – Madonna
‘still life’ – opeth
‘grand finale’ – the DOC

I’m beginning to be suspicious of my school’s teaching methods. The curriculum seems to alternate between being so basic that I don’t learn anything, and –suddenly– so hard that I don’t learn anything!! the large class size, combined with the belief that all the students are interchangeable, (i.e. we’re all at the same skill level and we all learn things in the same way), means that we don’t get much individual attention. Oh, and in Japan it’s rude to take notes while teacher is talking!! (because you’re supposed to be reciting stuff ALL THE TIME with the rest of the class)

I’m beginning to realize this: not only do I have to learn this new language, that’s not hard enough it seems. . .i have to learn this entirely new pedagogy also! And everyone else in class seems to have no problem with the teaching style. It’s as if you went to some other country where the teacher would blow a huge blue booger out her nose, and everyone else in class instantly knew 15 new verbs.

Later I meet my favorite pink-haired, chain-smoking, punk rock waitress for the first time in a year. . .. let’s call her Lulu. I was a little worried about meeting her. Why? Because last spring there was some drama. .

she was really into green day, so I decided she should hear the bands that green day ripped off, bands that are actually good. i asked if she wanted some free CDs, but instead, she just stopped writing to me!

In fact, all the Japanese women I know are really against getting free stuff from dudes, and want to stand on their own two feet. So feel free to kill that stereotype. Anyway I wanted to make sure she felt comfortable around me so this time I got her a fancy looking box that she eagerly opened- and there was nothing inside. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I understand you now!!’

(actually she looked kind of disappointed).

We do the traditional Japanese thing. . . go to KFC, drink choco-frosties, and chainsmoke. . .. She’s full of surprises. A punk rocker who says shows are boring, she’d rather be reading german psychoanalysis and making silver jewelry all the time! she shows me some pictures of her Navy beau, but I totally clown on her because homeboy looks like fred durst. . . . which HE DOES!!

DATE: sun july 13

SOUNDTRACK: ‘get off my cloud’ – rolling stones
‘carry on my wayward son’ – Kansas
‘well paid scientist’ – dead kennedys

study all day.

Oh, and in the art supply store, there is an ‘information booth’ . next to the booth is a rack of tote bags, featuring a cartoon rabbit lifting up her skirt. So naturally the information I requested was, ‘DUDE, WHAT IS UP WITH THAT BUNNY’S PANTIES??’ (‘bunny-no panchira, de sho? Doshite???’)




DATE: Thursday the 17th
ENGRISH OF THE DAY: t-shirt reading , "I’M WITH CELEBRITY—>"

SOUNDTRACK: Unexpexted Paul Maccartney And Wings tune
"Go West" – village people
"I just don’t g**e a f**k" – emin*m

have some of those "11 PM Tacos" with this totally random Japanese woman named Shoko. She’s all about international economics and giving herself haircuts. Shoko, describing her ex-boyfriend: "he’s from San Francisco. He’s totally into underground Japanese music and bicycles, and hello kitty AND he’s moving to japan next month!" Not only that, but his birthday is 2 days away from mine!!

I wonder if we share ANOTHER similarity: is he as FRIGHTENED as I am by how overly Twilight-Zoney this is?? more to the point: is the world even READY for two of us??





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