A Week in Tokyo

Tokyo festival

I was flat on my back in the dark grass, pressing my eyes shut while bombs exploded overhead. “Are you watching?” Mizuki asked.

“Intently,” I lied.

After five years away, I’d come back for a week in Tokyo, to visit old friends, old neighborhoods, and apparently endure a fireworks festival on the banks of the Arakawa river, crowded in with a million Japanese people.

Our small group finally found an unlevel spot in the weeds of the riverbank, where we laid on blue plastic sheets and drank cans of chu-hi while colorful shapes exploded overhead and the crowd went oooo, then ahhh. Then oooo again. Only in Japanese. Continue reading “A Week in Tokyo”

My First Month in Japan

Photo by Akita Ben

Guest post by Akita Ben

As night closed over my first month in Japan, I walked past the Lawson, Daily Yamazaki, and Iwai-san the barber until I got to the river. From the middle of the bridge, I stopped and looked down at the serpentine water and beyond to the three-story Itoku and rectangular old hotel that comprises my town’s skyline. Everything was tinged with purple and orange in the fading light. It was beautiful, but I felt alienated. My mind became clouded with dark doubts: “Why am I on a bridge in Northern Japan? I don’t belong here. This is a waste of time.” Japanese joggers trotted past, like, “Great, another gaijin going over the rail. Better pick up the pace.” But after a few more minutes of sullen reflection, I walked back to my prison cell. Continue reading “My First Month in Japan”

Plastic Japan

In Kenya, you get jail time for plastic bags. In the U.S.,  straw-shaming’s all the rage. Ah, Americans, how quickly you forget.  Cue balloon disaster.

Anyway, I can only imagine what a mind-fuck it is for Kenyans to arrive in Japan and find themselves surrounded, sometimes literally, by a sea of plastic. Because when it comes to being proudly able replicate everything on earth with its plastic counterpart, Japan rules the world. In front of the ramen shop, there’s a plastic bowl of plastic ramen. The curry shop has plastic plates so real you’ll be tempted to smell your fingers after Continue reading “Plastic Japan”

Feminism in Japan

Feminism in Japan

“Washing your own dishes? That’s commendable.”

This is my co-worker Ms. Oshiro, leaning over my shoulder at the office sink. I’ve got a scrubby in one hand, bento box in the other, and my first reaction is, “Well, who else’d wash ‘em?”

But then common sense kicked in. The same person who made my delicious bento: my wife, of course. Because in Japan, that’s the way it works. Ken Seeroi’s wife hand-makes him a lunch box of rice, mackerel, a hard-boiled egg, and mini sausages shaped like octopuses, then at the end of the day he takes his dirty dishes back to her. Honey, I’m home. Japan’s real 1950’s like that. Continue reading “Feminism in Japan”

Is Japan a Lonely Place?

Japanese Temple - Japanese Rule of 7

“Remember that place I used to live, on the 5th floor?”

If this was Emi’s way of asking if I could ever forget her tiny, damp apartment where we spent several nights a week cross-legged on the floor powering through tins of mackerel and cans of malt liquor, the answer would be a resounding Oh hell no.

“Oh hell yeah,” I answered resoundingly. “That place was the best.” And of course by “the best,” she knows I mean “the worst.”

“Well, I just found out my sister lives around the corner. We passed her house every day for two years and never knew it.” Continue reading “Is Japan a Lonely Place?”