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”

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?”

How Japan Killed my Vegetarianism

“Okay, how ‘bout a sheep. Would you have sex with a sheep?” I asked.

“Mmm,” Ryan replied. “Boy sheep or girl?

“Like it matters?

“If it’s a boy sheep, that’s gay. Okay, let’s say I bought a hamburger, would you eat it?

“Nope,” I said, “No way.

“For a hundred dollars?”

This was twelve years ago. Ry and I were driving Route 1 down from San Francisco, winding through Big Sur as the sun and clouds painted patterns on the Pacific. We had loads of time to dream up sophomoric questions.

“Would you eat a person for a hundred dollars?” I replied. “Like a manburger? Continue reading “How Japan Killed my Vegetarianism”

Japanese Racism

The first time I had a white kid in my English class, I couldn’t stop staring at him. He was floating among a sea of Asian faces in our sweaty, countryside classroom. I rattled my head and gazed briefly out the window. Steam was rising from the mountains in the distance, and in the foreground a line of wild monkeys dashed across the schoolyard, heading for the pool. Japan’s a weird place. I looked back at Keita, with his curly blonde hair, struggling to pronounce the U.S. states.

“Flolida,” he said.

“Florida,” I repeated, like Please tell me you’re joking.

“Folida?” he said earnestly, his little eyes welling with tears.

“Can you say ‘Miami’?

“Miami.

“Perfect. From now on, just say that.” Continue reading “Japanese Racism”

Making Friends in Japan

People say Japan’s a lonely place. But people say a lot of things, including that America’s the greatest nation on earth. Well, they do have a lot of eagles, cheeseburgers, and guns, so I guess it must be true.

Anyway, recently a reader asked if it was hard to make friends in Japan, to which I’m tempted to answer “well, yes and no.” But since that’s the world’s most dickish answer, I’ll just go with “yes.” Yes, it is, for a few simple reasons.

By way of illustration, let me first tell you about my good friend, Imada-san. We’ve been naked together many times. Maybe in the West, men don’t bathe together much, but really, how can you call somebody a friend if you haven’t seen his junk? Eh, maybe it’s a cultural thing. Anyway, moving on. Continue reading “Making Friends in Japan”