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”

Airbnb Japan: 4 Non-Obvious Things

Japanese Mice - Japanese Rule of 7

The coldest shower I ever took was at an Airbnb in Japan. It was in a tiny, freezing apartment in Fukuoka, in the dead of winter, as I was getting ready to go meet some girls.

“Maybe if I just wait a while,” I thought, “it’ll warm up.” You know how if you let cold water run long enough, it starts to feel a little warmer? Yeah, that didn’t happen. I searched for an invisible panel or switch to turn on. Nothing. I wrapped a towel around my waist and padded outside in bare feet to stare through the darkness at a rusted hot water heater hanging off the wall. I’d have about as much chance of fixing that as debugging R2D2. Snow flurries swirled through the night sky. Back inside, the jet stream was blowing them through an open vent in the tile wall. Japanese apartments have zero insulation. Continue reading “Airbnb Japan: 4 Non-Obvious Things”

Poverty in Japan

Recently, the subject of poverty in Japan came up, so, uh, let me tell you about my friend Emi. She’s a dancer. We’ll get around to the poverty in a minute. Don’t worry, it’s not going anywhere.

“Want to come to my flamenco performance?” she cooed. We were sitting on the riverbank drinking cans of malt liquor and watching the sunset. Emi does this thing with her eyes that makes every crazy thing coming out of her mouth sound like an excellent idea.

“Do I?” I blurted out. “In Japan? I thought they were only in Florida?” I love pink birds!”

“No, you dolt, flamenco. Like the dance?”

“Oh.” I tried to hide my disappointment by downing half a can of Kirin. Continue reading “Poverty in Japan”

3 Japanese Ghost Stories

Japanese Ghost

1. The Japanese Ghost Apartment

Saturday night, and Ruriko and I went out for a pleasant walk. Pleasant. Such is my life in Japan, devolved from Awesome,  the Shibuya clubs overflowing with strobes and beats bouncing off bottles of Corona as I tried desperately to remember the name of whichever short-skirted girl I was chatting up. I really should use mnemonics when people introduce themselves. Anyway, now it’s come to this, walking in the dark with what’s-her-name and a lukewarm can of malt liquor.

“That apartment’s for rent again.” She gazed up at the empty space in a run-down three-story story building. “Must be a ghost there.” Continue reading “3 Japanese Ghost Stories”

The Day I Got Shot in Japan

The first shot was like a needle to the sternum, and I was trying to figure out how a bee had stung me in the chest. The next one glanced off my right thumb, and the gravity of the situation quickly dawned on me, since that’s my beer-graspin’ hand. The guy next to me took a hit to the glasses and spiraled backward off the bench with a groan. To be fair, it’s hard to keep your balance when you’ve been drinking since noon. Continue reading “The Day I Got Shot in Japan”