Tokyo Damage Report

grab bag: various interesting stores.

july 10

After dinner I just bike around, and see some old lady who is feeding the stray cats in an alley way. So naturally we become best friends. She teaches me the Japanese way to count stray animals. Then I keep cruising around, and find this utterly random, middle-of-nowhere, size-of-a-closet anarchist bookstore. Thank god for BIZZLE!! Tokyo, like new york, is one of those cities where you can wander pretty much anywhere and find some totally nutty place! I asked the clerk if it was just anarchist books. But my man could only speak 4 words of english. And those words, of course, were ‘communism,’ ‘feminism,’ and ‘postcoronial theoly.’ Rock on!!!

Using my hideous Japanese, I explain to him that I’m a student. I need to buy Japanese books so I can practice my reading skills, but I only read at the level of a 4 year old. So I ask does he have any "kodomo no hon" (children’s books) about postcolonial theory?

Stupid anarchists. They’re, like, totally following society’s rules about what’s appropriate reading material for 4 year olds . . . .

july 12

TOKYO HOBBIT. The sign is only visible from the window of a fast-moving train, so I have no idea how to find the store on foot. But now, thanks to the wonderful BIZZLE-bike, I decide to just ride and ride until I finally find the place. Unfortunately, the ‘engrish’ sign actually makes sense in context: It’s a fantasy model kit store. Except most of the dragon and dungeon models have since been replaced with robots and those tiny plastic assemble-them-yourself underwear women.


But hey, on the way home, I get lost AGAIN, and AGAIN I find the best thing ever: From the outside, it looks like any normal, old-fashioned, Norman Rockwell barber shop. . . except the damn barbershop pole has ‘gangsta’ written on it. IT’S A GANGSTA BARBER SHOP! Inside, it’s a combination barber shop and rap CD store. . . . the walls are completely covered in gangsta cds and posters of men with huge afros getting oral sex. "dirty south," he explains, "west coast. East coast nae" (nothing). His favorite rapper? RAY LUV. And my man here, he does fades. I tell him I’ll bust a freestyle if he lets me take his picture, but he doesn’t speak jive. I take a picture anyway. What’s even better is, the owner isn’t even trying to be black. There is no do-rags or locs or Fubu gear involved. He’s just this average, 40-year-old Japanese guy who happens to really love his Brotha Lynch Hung.

This is the single best thing in the city.

Then, I find my used book store. In japan, ‘FURU’ means ‘secondhand’ The ‘furu’ phenomenon is one of my favorite things about japan. Sure, Tokyo people are relentlessly materialistic and shallow. . . and sure; regular stuff costs twice as much as it does in the USA. But. . . used stuff is only half the price of American used stuff. So two wrongs DO make a right!! I’m benefiting from the shallow materialism, rather than just being annoyed by it. GO FURU!! FURU NOT FUBU!!!!




Then I went to the DESIGN FIESTA MUSEUM. it’s got this insane 4-dimensional scaffolding on the outside, and cones instead of shingles on the roof!!

It’s pretty nifty because it’s a) free, and b) the artists are usually in the studio, and want to talk to you (and talk you into buying their work!). unfortunately my japanese isn’t good enough to ask really technical questions about cathexis and post-structuralist critiques. But my Japanese IS good enough to ask the innocent-looking girl who paints watercolors of panties, "Have your father and mother seen this?"

augusst 10


But as hard as the ‘new school’ toys try to be weird and ‘arty’ . .. the mainstream will always be just as weird, but much cheaper. For instance, there are stores now in shopping malls. . . they’re called CAPSULE STORES. these stores consist of NOTHING but gumball-style vending Machines. Like a Laundromat, there’s machines stacked floor-to ceiling. . . all selling little toys in plastic capsules. You put in 500 yen, and hope that the toy which pops out is a toy you don’t already have.


My Friend Jones-san came to visit from America. We swapped language tips, such as yelling ‘GAMBATTE’ ( ‘good luck’ or ‘try your best!!’, and generally used by students at exam time) at over-dressed fashion victim women, or saying ‘GOMI NASSAI’ (‘I’m garbage sorry’) at people you don’t really want to apologize to. Then we went to some temple in Yoyogi.

One of the things you can do in the temple is buy these little wooden ‘prayer cards’ and write a prayer on them, and hang them in the courtyard. Most people wish for health for their family, or love, or (in one memorable instance) that their boyfriend get out of jail ‘with the minimum jail time and fines.’. but one person decided to write this instead:


even though this card is in English, how come I somehow k now it’s not an English person who wrote this? And not an Australian either. . . and definitely not a Canadian. . . or new Zealander or Indian. .. . . or Irish. . . this person is AH-MERR-EE-CAN.


september 13


also found this totally cool old bookstore which is about 6 feet wide, and crammed to the rafters with a) edo-period maps and b) 80s aerobic porn featuring Japanese Jennifer Beals lookalikes. concept-wise it doesn’t get much better.

september 27


Then I go to the MAPS’N’PORN store and go berserk. I mean, how many people are lucky enough to even HAVE a maps’n’porn store in their city??? Get a bunch of maps, and a bunch of porn! even though I haven’t even finished the batch of porn from the last visit. AND I’m getting new porn even though the last batch pretty much sucked. Yikes! Some would see this as evidence of my addiction to porn. I prefer to see it as a smart consumer who, precisely because he is NOT addicted, takes FOREVER to finish one porno magazine, and therefore reads them slowly.

so now i’ve got a backpack with a bunch of New Yorker articles about Kim Jong Il, and porn, and maps, and i become terrified that — by the time i get home — i’ll be so overcome with fatigue that i’ll lose track of which is which, all measuring the porn and jacking off to Kim Jong.

so far, my total expenditure on porn is not equal to the minimum cost of actually paying for sex, which is the usual tip-off that you’ve got Too Much Porn. Right now i’m easily in the 80% range though, which makes me spend the rest of the trip home wondering what 80% of coitus would look like.

On my way home, some woman in a green dress is leaning against a wall on a crowded sidewalk, singing. I’m like, huh, maybe she’s busking. Then it turns out she’s just reciting a single word to passers-by, in a sing-song voice. She sings it to me. Her teeth stained all crazy with nicotine. I can’t figure out what she’s saying. . . maso-chi? Message? Mossad? I’m like all asking her, "what does this have to do with Isralei security forces? ARE YOU GOLDA MAIER?!?" Then she says it in perfect, if exasperated, English; "massage! We have beautiful Thai girls!" Ohh. Massage! Well, no thanks. Very sorry. Then I turn and give her a big thumbs up and say, GANBATTE!!!! (‘good luck’ or ‘please try your best’). But still, I like to believe that she WAS a transvestite Mossad agent, who was in ‘deep cover’, infiltrating a gang of Thai whores who were a threat to Israel. Somehow.

OK, SO ANYWAY, about these maps:


OCTOBER 1 2003

because, waiting for me on the main street was a brand new club, called SMOKERS’ STYLE

it’s like a cofee shop, but no cofee. and no food. and no alcohol. just smoking.

i was like, ‘Waitaminnit. . .that can’t be all there is to this joint.’ so i went in (through the airlock triple-door lobby) and IMMIDIATELY got high from all the nicotene in the atmosphere. Picture a the scent of ,say, a bus terminal, combined with a casino. it was like that. i felt like tapping the patrons on the shoulder and screaming ‘DUDE!! this is the LAST PLACE ON EARTH where you need to LIGHT A CIGARETTE in order to get nicotene in your lungs!! YOU ARE TOTALLY WASTING THAT CIGARETTE!!’ basically SMOKERS is just a bunch of people smoking. not talking to each other, not reading, just smoking. i have no idea how they make money. do they bill people. . . by the minute? by the lung?? no clue.

what makes the whole thing even more preposterous is that THIS ISN’T CALIFORNIA. there is NO stigma attached to smoking in Tokyo. my friend from Taiwan said people here smoke even more than Chinese dudes. So exactly what sets this room apart from the other 99% of Tokyo where everyone smokes ANYWAY?






go to Ochanomizu, and have dinner (meaning, breakfast late) at NATTERAJ.

This is a strictly vegetarian Indian restaurant. They use no meat whatsoever, which makes it even stranger that they have a HUGE STATUE of some INDIAN GUY STABBING AN ANIMAL. And it’s not even an Indian animal-it’s A BABY SEAL!! That’s even MORE terrifying somehow, like they went out of their way to construct this tableau.

And of course there was like ABSOLUTELY NO CONTEXT. It was so subtle I got out of the restaurant altogether, and was walking up the stairs, before it hit me . . . "hey, was that. ..that couldn’t of been. . ." then I ran back down and demanded to take a picture!!


korean barbershop in japan.

not so weird.

but, lo:

BETTE MIDLER advertising korean barbershop in japan

still not impressed?

BETTE MIDLER WITH AFRO advertising korean barbershop in japan.


still not impressed? try this on for size, tough guy:

BETTE MIDLER DRAPED IN CHAINS advertising korean barbershop in tokyo!


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