Well, there comes a time in every high-kinetic party when the DJ slows it down a bit, takes a break from the rump-shaking head-banging jams and gives you time to get a drink- with or without an umbrella- and get your swerve on, and throws on some smoothed out joints.
And, it’s about that time right now.
Yep, it’s your boy, Loco, back with a guest DJ made for this task, kicking the lyrics you don’t so much want to get up and lose 5 lbs sweating on a dance floor to, but vibe with good people just lamping in the lounge and bobbing your head, and feeling like, indeed, you are in the place to be.
That’s right, y’all! it’s time for:
Welcome back! Glad you could make it!
First a little something to set the tone:
Thought I’d let Tupac’s classic put you in the groove for this next guest’s post, and you’re about to find out why.
Over the past three years I’ve been keeping Loco in Yokohama going I’ve had a number of notable commenters come and go. Such is life in the blog lane. Occasionally I get a commenter that- how should I put this- that makes me feel…I dunno…important? Like I’m saying something that needs to be said, discussing issues that warrant the effort it takes to present them, telling stories with meaning and purpose…And, among these commenters there are several who have informed me through their comments and support that I had depth even I was unaware of.
A helluva gift, wouldn’t you say?
One such commenter is a fellow blogger and friend (one of the few Internet entities I’ve actually met in person) and goes by the alias: Rubi. Readers of Loco in Yokohama will recognize this name from some of the legendary comments he’s blessed my blog with. He’s one of a handful of commenters that actually intimidate and thus inspire me with their incisiveness and intelligence, clarity of thought, balanced temperment and academic astuteness.
I often find myself in awe at his comments and more than a little proud that Loco in Yokohama can attract and retain such a caliber of commenter.
OK, enough gushing for now…
Rubi’s actually left Japan and now resides in India where I expect great things from him. He still blogs a bit at Umbrella Drinks and Metatron, and I suspect we’ll be seeing a new blog to chronicle his experiences in the land of Curry and Maharajahs, but nevertheless has taken time out to bless my blog once again.
So, Rubi, without further ado, live up to the hype I’ve dished up, why don’t you (-;
1-What’s the Loco-est (craziest) thing you’ve ever seen or done in Japan? And I know you’ve got a shit load! Describe the experience as only you can, anything from the insanely mundane to the absurd is fine with me.
Given my particular line of work I have to stay as middle-of-the-road as possible, so I can’t tell you the absolute craziest of my experiences in Japan – let’s just say, story-wise, I could give Corinne a run for her money. Even that is saying too much!
When you mention to people that you’ve lived in Japan you are often bombarded with a lot of comments disguised as questions about how crazy it is, how strange the food etc. Now, Japan is indeed full of weird and wonderful things. However in my experience most of the weird stuff that gets talked about outside of Japan is weird to most Japanese people too.
To many a visitor to this archipelago, damn near everything is crazy, and new, and weird, and cool. So after my relatively lengthy stay in Japan I’ve come to find many foreigner’s answers to a question like “What’s the loco-est thing you’ve ever seen or done in Japan?” hopelessly bland: “I saw monkeys using an onsen”, “I ate that super poisonous puffer fish”, “I had sex (OMGWTF) with Japanese people”, “I went to a maid café AND manga café!”
You’ll be glad then to know that my own answer will be in the same vein.
My best friend in Japan, Kels, had this fabulous friend – let’s call him Astrid – working as a designer and promoter in Tokyo. Astrid was throwing the mother of all Hallowe’en parties in the super trendy Ginza district, and had been admonishing Kel all week to come, and come in costume. And no costume would be too crazy. In fact with Astrid and his circle you knew that the crazier your costume was, the better. Kel never passes up the chance to do fabulous things in Tokyo, and since we were chilling together for the weekend, I considered it a mitzvah to make an effort myself.
Thrown across my entire face and head was a rough black cloth, tied in a knot at the bottom of my neck like a bandana. It had two tiny little eyeholes, cut haphazardly, the eyeholes were big enough for me to see, but so small that only a part of each eye was visible, think scarecrow’s mask or that dude from the Texas chainsaw massacre. Scrawled on my naked chest with black body paint was 凶 kyou a Japanese character meaning evil. On my feet were a pair of oversized wooden geta. My friend’s costume was even crazier. He wore nothing but a small fundoshi to cover his modesty and tied red rope around his trunk in the Japanese bondage style. When it came to getting a taxi to Ginza, a dad-burned ring wraith would have done better.
So we get to Ginza, and quickly notice that we’re heading in the same direction as a very smartly dressed group of Japanese people, who gave us the side-eye the whole time. As we suspected, it turned out that we were going to the same venue! chikusho! Almost every Japanese person at the party had come in professional attire and here we were looking like we’d come from a Bakumatsu-period crime scene.
I was a little self-conscious at first, which is pretty normal for a guy who looks absolutely murderous in a room full of people dressed to the nines – my mask was actually scaring people so I removed it. I chilled when a big group of costumed partygoers arrived about an hour later, and I realised that the Japanese guests seemed to think we were performers.
I also noticed that some of the Japanese guests were devouring us with their eyes. A group of professional ladies got a bit of drink in them and let their freak flag fly. In the end, it turned out to be a most enjoyable evening.
2-Why do you blog about life in Japan? (in your case I guess you can answer why you blog period or used to blog on Japan- you did didn’t you?
A little while back I landed a gig as a researcher and consultant with a Japanese NGO. I’d been telling friends a little about my project on Facebook, and one of them suggested that I start a blog. I’ve been writing ever since, though I don’t write too much about Japan these days since I moved away. I now run two blogs, badly, and very badly.
It’s been hard for me to put fingers to keyboard about my second home since the earthquake and tsunami, and being busy with projects means less time to rant about political matters online. So these days I’m writing almost solely about my current experiences in India. I can’t really tell you why I write. I just know that I love a good story.
3- I thought I’d take up one of the questions commenter Dana asked of Loco a while ago.
In her message she touched on the issue of how we think about the meaning of “man” and “woman”, and how that thinking is influenced by different cultures and experiences. I hope that my attempt to proffer my own answer will be of interest.
I think I learnt the most about what I imagined “man” to be during my year of hell. I was in limbo, underemployed, searching in vain for long-term work in the States. I eventually had to leave the States, which essentially meant losing my partner, and began what for the longest time was a fruitless search for work in the UK.
I’m of the opinion that the labels man, woman, masculine, and feminine can never entirely capture the full complexity of the human family. This isn’t to say that they aren’t at all useful, just that I try to be careful not to need everything to fit into those categories. If a person has X and Y chromosomes, but feels strongly that should have been born with two X chromosomes the label “man” can describe little more than the fact that person has X and Y chromosomes.
In a country like the US I’d lose masculine bona fides because, for example, I can name more than the primary colours, enjoy watching Will and Grace, love sweet cocktails, and have no beef with throwing down to Beyonce when necessary. I know that for my gay African-American friends, one of the most refreshing things about Japan is the increased sense of freedom to be who they are. Of course, this isn’t to say that Japan is free of anti-gay sentiment, just that foreigners – insofar as they remain outside of cultural expectations – can avoid it in most instances.
The grumbling of old-school oyaji about herbivorous men aside, my impression of Japan is that a wide range of expression is permitted amongst men. I knew female ALTs, schoolgirls (and schoolboys!) swear by their boy Yuusuke, or their boy Shouta to get their eyebrows threaded right. Men here are touchy feely with each other in a way that would be perceived as not quite ready for primetime in the US or UK. Unfortunately this is usually contingent on the assumption that one is heterosexual. That being said, the general lack of “no homo” bullshit was something I quite enjoyed. Nothing worse than going to an onsen with a bunch of guys acting as though they’re at serious risk of getting jumped by the first man who catches sight of their irresistible penises.
So what did my year of hell teach me? Well, I haven’t been on a date in a very long time. There are a few reasons for that, but I know that one of the biggest reasons has been my periods of under and unemployment (though I now have what I hope will be a long-term gig. Woo! Yay!) My friend, Yzama, told me I’m going for the wrong kind of women if I’m not approaching anyone because I can’t say I have a decent job, and how she had the biggest crush on this unemployed guy who had no plans to find work.
“Any woman who would reject a man because they’re broke or they don’t have a job is a shallow person who is not worth your time”, she asserted. I couldn’t help but think that most women would not share her opinion. I wonder if that feeling is problematic. At the same time I wondered if her assertion came from a place of privilege. Barring some catastrophe, my friend would never be in any danger of poverty. She faces no real risk getting involved with an unemployed man who doesn’t fancy gainful employment. Not every woman can say the same thing.
My conversation with my friend reminded me of the narrative drawn on by Cee-Lo Green’s joint “fuck you”. A great guy is dumped or rejected because he’s broke. To my mind the implicit message, is that women must stick with, or choose men who have little in the way of wealth. However I don’t see men admonished in a similar way to date women with faces/bodies they consider unattractive.
Regardless, I don’t feel at all attractive when I’m doing something I feel is a complete mismatch with the esteem in which I hold my skills and education (heh, Dunning-Kruger effect notwithstanding). Upon reflection, I know that part of that comes from ideas about what it is to be a man, and a good, attractive man at that.
The good man is educated, has a good job, a home…the foundation for a family unit, just add a woman. In addition, where I grew up there was a cultural narrative that detailed good for nothing deadbeat men, who don’t have a job, can’t hold down a job, and do nothing but coax money from their wives and girlfriends, leaving kids in their wake. My mother would be damned if I were to end up like many of the whites and “those Jamaicans” on the estate.
I could tell you all of the problems inherent in that paradigm, but I cannot shake the sense of inadequacy that came with a lack of gainful employment; because while I have rejected the inherent heterosexism, and the implicit assumptions that men are the sole financial providers, and that women should be dependent on men, I recognise that for someone with my background attaining what would be considered the foundation for a family unit is a good goal, especially when it is the difference between doing OK and barely treading water.
@Rubi: Thank you again for doing this. I really appreciate it!
@Dana: If you’re reading this, know that you are NOT forgotten! In fact, something is still in the works (a collaboration of sorts) regarding gender issues. Stay tuned!
@Readers: Show Rubi some love at Umbrella Drinks and Metatron and tell him Loco sent you!
This party WILL continue…
PS: Click on the links below to jam with the previous guest DJs!