Tag Archives: Tokyo

In a cave, or something

This is the view looking down my street to the west. Depending on the time of year and weather, the sun gets low enough to cut through all the air pollution and make a glorious golden light, which reflects at just the right angle off of the sound-dampening panels on the outside of the highway. In person it’s actually much, much, more beautiful, and much, much brighter; so bright that you’re nearly blinded by the reflection. But the computer monitor is a poor medium for portraying such majesty, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Sobu Line thoughts

I’ve been coming back here for six years and every time I arrive it’s electrifying and wondrous. How can i never tire of it all? The trains, the rivers, the tired danchi and sagging pachinko parlors that go zipping by. Massive highways, father peddling by with small children in baskets, the endless landscape of twenty million silent individuals is arresting. JR, Sumitomo, Sankyo, Daiei, Coco Ichibanya. Neon, acid rain, pressed uniforms and courteous bows. Love, drama, and decay.

A lengthy account of the Tokyo real estate market (part 2)

After two weekends of searching for homes in my sweet triangle and finding very few possibilities, I acquiesced and decided to broaden my search to areas farther away, consenting to listings as far away as Koenji, which while still within a twenty-minute bicycle ride to Shinjuku, probably the better part of an hour to work. This would mean commuting via train, and the loss of my currently accruing commuter allocation. In turn, I lowered my acceptable upper bound for rent to 625 dollars a month. There’s nothing wrong with Nakano and Koenji, on the contrary they’re quite fashionable, trendy, cheap places to live and still within easy distance of Shinjuku. Being farther west on the Chuo line, however, they make all of the easy access to central Tokyo via bicycle that I enjoy now, more of an ordeal.

The first listing was billed as being near Nakano station, and having a spectacular view. It was rather nice, but unfortunately much smaller than the first floor rental in the same building, and a good twelve minutes’ walk from the station, something that’s a lot more important when you stop going everywhere by bicycle. At least it was clean, however.

The second place in Nakano I visited was much closer to the station, and near a shoutengai (small merchant street) just off of Waseda dori. Unfortunately it was on the sunken ground floor and had a lovely north-facing view of the the front shrubbery, leaving absolutely no sunlight whatsoever. It was pretty small too and felt a lot like a converted basement bedroom of Rachael’s parents’ that I slept in once. This tomb was ruled out before I even took off my shoes and as such didn’t bother to take any pictures.

The last place I saw was in Koenji, and the path to the building was magical. Apparently a long arcade runs underneath the Chuo line from Koenji to Asagaya, and the way in between is spotted with incredibly cheap bars, restaurants, and vintage stores. I could easily imagine unwinding at any number of friendly watering holes on the way home, negating even the worst of workdays with bouquets of cheap suds and the charming, stylish youth of Tokyo. But the real peach was the house itself. This was another one of those incredibly old, hardly maintained buildings that just screamed, “beat”. The stairwell was littered with trash, the antiquated interior sliding doors paper-thin, and all of the metal was in a various state of corrosion. Even the bathroom light was out, so it took the flash of my camera to give me an idea of what state the place was in. Nothing felt evil or dangerous though, it was more of just a very worn, very old part of the city left to the young and struggling artists. The owner of the building was obviously aware of all the strikes against it, for the rent was less than I was currently paying, and fitting despite how close it was to the station. A little too close, actually. The room was on the third floor and only about a good fifty feet from the elevated tracks of the Chuo line. Since it wasn’t right in front of the station I didn’t hear any whistles, but the trains rolled by every sixty to ninety seconds, and they were certainly hard to miss. I almost felt the old building rock slightly when an express rocketed by. If you’ve ever seen The Blues Brothers, you’ll have an idea of what it’s like, honestly.

The icing on the cake of this place though was the treasure I discovered in the kitchen closet. The previous tenants had apparently left behind three large photo albums and a bunch of negatives; what seemed like ten years’ of past discarded for the future. It was fascinating, I could hardly believe that it wasn’t scripted. There, in that cold, empty, beat house was over a decade of memories, a vault of life. It started with a clean-faced, bright-eyed boy at high school graduation, all of his friends and family crowded around in celebration. The suits were spotless, the smiles were genuine, and the world lay full of promise and hope.

After high school the protagonist gradually grew his hair out, in successive collections his look became more punk, and through their late teens and early twenties the friends formed a band. The beaming grins were replaced with nonchalant expressions accentuated by an appearance of the finger or the occasional moon. Rehearsels and gigs at local bars were recorded as the group tried hard to get by. Through the same pages and albums, one girl from the graduation photos appeared more and more prominently: a trip to Disneyland, holiday at Nara. Eventually they seemed to be living together, sharing the fight through an ambigous time. But towards the end of the catalog grinning faces were fewer and farther between, and the pictures didn’t all make into albums, some just in shoe boxes or the original sleeves from the print shop.

I guess in the end things didn’t work out the way anybody expected. The Blue Hearts broke up, the J-Punk boom of the early nineties ended, and so did everyone’s vision of what it should all be like. If those memories were cherished ones they certainly wouldn’t be left behind in an empty house, so it seems that it in end it must of have been a rough falling out. It’s kind of sad, if you really think about it. But the finding of such a striking slice of someone else’s intimate history was surreal and riveting. I almost wish I hadn’t found any better rentals just so I could take that beat pad by the train tracks and inherit that legacy. I’m positive I would end up writing the most fantastic of books from it. But it didn’t work out that way, so it stays just a naked brush with raw, wet humanity.

A lengthy account of the Tokyo real estate market (part 1)

Since my housing snafu in mid-December, I’ve been on the market for a new apartment. I know it’s going to end up costing about 3500-4000 USD, but that comes with the territory in Japan. I’ve been hoping to make an upgrade in several keys areas of my domicile, among them location, size, and amenities. Right now I have about a twenty to twenty-five minute commute on my bicycle, but it’s entirely down Yamate Street, which is about as construction-ridden and pollution filled a ground level road as they come in the city. It’s a good workout, but the toll it takes on my alignment bothers me, to say nothing of what my lungs must think of it. If possible, I’d like to move a little closer to the office and find a less-heavily travelled route.

Given that, I made my list of requirements and potential dwellings and carpet bombed the real estate web sites [Much later I found out how fruitless this is, being mostly composed of fake listings and ad bait to attract customers to realtors’ offices.] I even worked through two regional realtors, to maximize my chances of return with one while the other was idle. In the end, I saw enough floorplans to write a book on the state of property rental in west central Tokyo.

In terms of location I wanted to be no farther from work than I currently was, which gives us about a six kilometer radius from Nakameguro. I also wanted to be on either the JR Yamanote or Sobu Line, with accessibility to a big station in less than fifteen minutes, like Shinjuku or Shibuya. Additionally, I needed at least as much space as I currently had, about 21 square meters, or my furniture wouldn’t fit in. In some cases even more space wouldn’t work depending on the layout. In the end, I concentrated on the area in between Yotsuya, Shinjuku, and Shibuya, with the ideal being Sendagaya, where I originally lived when I came to Tokyo four years ago.

I don’t have time to go into detail about all the politics and hoops I had to jump through just to see these places, but it may still be interesting to enumerate the places I have pictures of, and ultimately what was wrong with them (for me). [It’s actually quite comical now that I think about it.]

This first apartment was an old building in Sakamachi, east of Higashi Gaien and between Yotsuya and Shinanomachi. Anything in this area peaked my interest because the commute would involve skipping Yamate dori all together and going through the incredibly upscale areas of Jingumae, Aoyama, Hiroo, and Ebisu. As it was, though, this apartment’s rent was slightly above my upper limit of 90000 yen (750 dollars a month), and the kitchen was barely wide enough to stand in. Ultimately it would take setting up my food preparation area and gas stove in a separate room down the hall. It also didn’t have a balcony (a feature I wanted to add this time) or much direct sunlight for my wide array of plants.

This second apartment is just west of Yotsuya station, in Saneichou. There were no apartments adjacent to or below the room, so sound would be a surefire non-issue. The amenities and fixtures were new, and incredibly the rooms were spacious. Everything was sparkling, and the dining kitchen was even carpeted. The owner was also an elderly old lady who ran a traditional Japanese sweets store around the corner which dated back nearly a hundred years. I almost went with this place despite the appreciable lack of direct sunlight, but in the end it fell through because I tried to do a run around the good ‘ol boy real estate system to save on a couple thousand dollars of service fees. It wasn’t pretty when the realtors got wind of it.

Lions Mansion is an extremely large chain of managed buildings all over Japan. Everyone’s heard of them and you’d think that with that much influence and success things would be handled a little more professionally. Such was not the case and this mansion in Nishi-shinjuku was a pit when we visited. It looked a lot like a some sort of gangster or cromag had previously lived there. Two refridgerators and a collection of broken furniture still remained, and stains from fluids of various origins were smeared across all the walls. I’m not sure which was more amusing, the decapitated cockroach bodies on the floor or the broken toilet seat which had been wrapped with duct tape. Even if the place was guaranteed to be renovated before move-in and heavily discounted, I don’t think you could have paid me to live there. It was suggestions like these from my first realtor that led me to quickly part ways with them. The view of the capitol was very nice though.

This little room was on the top floor of a crumbling and poorly maintained building only accessible by a spiraling series of progressively narrow roads which culminated in a set of decaying concrete stairs. In Akebonobashi the place gave good access to the east for when one is inclined to ride to Akihabara, but other than that, it was a bust. The heater was in the kitchen, leaving the bedroom ice cold, and the roof had no awning. This design problem was made readily clear by the freezing cold rain that was pouring the day I looked at the place. No sooner than I cracked open the window the tatami floor begin to get soaking wet. The toilet was also traditional Japanese style and not good for reading.

It’s no use crying about “what the market will bear”, because that’s always going to be true, especially in real estate. Time after time I saw small, poorly laid out apartments with little in the way of restoration since their contruction thirty-some years ago, when people were smaller and without an abundance of useful electric appliances. And for these gems each was listed at well above 80000 yen simply because it was less than three kilometers from the center of the city. My impression is that people still keep paying for these decreipt places for simply that reason. This room was on the top floor of a building that was rusting apart at the seams and completely empty (an especially stubborn owner I suppose). Flaking lead paint curled along every square inch of the facade giving the appearance of a geriatric poodle. The room itself had mold deep in the tatami mats, as well as disturbingly all along the inside closet walls. I wondered if the house had been under water as I remembered with trepidation all the horror stories I heard about condemned houses in the wake of hurricane Katrina. Once the mold has penetrated the mere surface, the only option left is to replace the wood completely. Somehow, the state the building was in left me little hope that this could be negotiated. The layout was also poor, the kitchen being too large but without useable wall space, leaving no practical place for my desk. Though the apartment sported two balconies to the north and south, the latter was useless as it looked directly into a larger apartment building.

Still, there was one incredibly redeeming point was not listed on the ad sheet. The southern balcony had a nearly hidden steel escape ladder leading up to the roof. Curious, I had to indulge and climbed up. Without any railing, the roof didn’t seem to be meant for any practical use other than access to the satellite dish. However, that’s all there was, and the large, concrete building top was nearly large enough for a pool. A 360 degree panoramic view of southern Shinjuku opened up and my mind raced at the thought of all the gorgeous photographs I could take up there, sunsets and sunrises. A deck chair, sunbathing, a private barbecue under fish scale clouds: it was fascinating. The best part was that the only means of access was through the top apartment, so if I rented, it would all be mine. This secret hideaway was almost enough to make me bear the decaying hulk below; but not enough to contract some sort of chronic illness from the spores that were already clinging to every paperlike surface inside. Since I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be back, I took a dozen or so shots with the A-1 before saying goodbye to that beautiful, silent sky.

One of my favorite listings was an apartment in the very large, very clean Towa High Town. The building is located on the very eastern edge of Shinjuku, right by Gaien Nishi street. It’s an area similar to the Upper West Side in terms of swank and style. The apartment wasn’t cheap, either. It was 91000 yen, but it was ridiculously huge and had a fantastic downtown view facing southeast. It also had the incredibly appealing benefit of not requiring any “key money” or intermediary service fees (this totals about 2400 dollars). The whole building looked like a hotel, had a number of elevators, and a security camera in the lobby. Oh, if only I could have landed it.

Unfortunately, it turns out that I wasn’t wanted there. Despite positive assurances from the management company that things would be all right, after applying I was turned down. Oddly enough, all of the vacancies in the building open at that time were mysteriously held by the same owner, so reapplying for a different room wouldn’t change things. Was it my income? The fact I’m foreign? Or that the listing was introduced to me by the slimy realtor I was trying to work around? I’ll never know, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Oh well, as my dad says, “You gotta be ready to walk.” I tried hard not to get my hopes up about it until the contract was closed, but of course I was still more than a little let down.

Life, cut.

Originally recorded December 16, 2006

My finger is rather tender, I accidentally put it in the revolving wheel of my bike while trying to turn on my headlight last night. It bled pretty bad.

Right now I’m in front of the Manboo manga kissa (internet cafe) next to Don Quixote on Yasukuni dori, and it’s harder to type than thought. Sambo Master is keeping me company, but today I’m really supposed to be looking for a new place to live. My trusty bicycle is laden with the most important elements I could take from my blessed rotting apartment last night, stuffed with hard disks and clothes that have sentimental value.

I could go to Yotsuya, I could live in Ueno. I dwell in the seat of fashion at Gaien or Jingumae, but I hope to avoid the humdrum of so many commuters migrating daily in a nondescript surburban malise.

It is just after eleven, though I already have more than a litre of beer in me. I’m not sure how many “rules” I’m breaking with this, but I think the fact I’m sitting at the top of the stairs leading into Subnade while typing on a Targus Stowaway more than makes up for it. Any time I think that I’m doing something slightly weird, consider how many of the twelve to twenty million people in the Tokyo area must be doing the exact same thing at the exact same instant. Yes, people are having orgams; yes, beer is being spilt on some municipal sidewalk; yes, someone is about to make a mistake that will change their life forever. If you think about it that way, there’s really not that much in the way of moral firewalls to keep you from doing whatever you feel like. “Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t we?” Yeah, maybe.

Normally, this would really piss me off, begin virtually homeless and wandering around Tokyo in the cold with two heavy rucksacks containing all the memories of my life. But actually, this is quite reminiscient of when I first came to Tokyo. Then it was the summer, incredibly hot, but I was wandering, with no schedule or particular place to go. Yes, I’m going to see James Bond tonight at seven, but other than that, I have only vague goals in mind. Having to move is still surreal, so I don’t think that I’ve really accepted it, but once I get really tired and want to just go home and watch an episode of TNG and find that I can’t, then it will sink in.

I want to do something warm and comforting, but I know it will ruin everything I have now. Ruin it in a wonderful, briefly fulfilling, but ultimately defeating way. Will I show better judgement, or bury myself in deference to umeshu? What do you think?

Northern Shinjuku, after following the Kandagawa...

Northern Shinjuku, after following the Kandagawa towards Waseda. April 2005.

This picture may very well be quite uninteresting to most people, and you may get the feeling like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel now. You’re not the only one. When I was setting up the shot a man was walking in the opposite direction, and after he passed me, he turned around with a confused expression on his face and looked down the same sight line as my camera, obviously perplexed as to what I could be taking a picture of. This happens a lot, actually. I guess the saying is, “Simple pleasures, simple minds.”

Another way of running

Tokyo is a special part of Japan, apart from the forty-three prefectures, kind of like how the District of Columbia isn’t a state. It’s comprised of twenty-three special wards (and twenty-six cities, five towns, and eight villages), each of which is tantamount to a completely autonomous city. The cities run right up next to each other, sort of like the borough of Pittsburgh. I’ve lived in Shibuya ward since I came to Tokyo, though there are different regions inside Shibuya. I live in the area known as Honmachi, which is in the northeast corner of Shibuya, running up against Nakano and Shinjuku wards. Inside Honmachi is an even smaller municipal division, known as the choukai. Honmachi has eight, I happen to live in the smallest, East Honmachi. The East Honmachi village council is the body that arranges the annual festivals, bazaar and such.

Today I made good on another tradition, and a promise, this time joining this year’s undoukai (athletic meet). Two years ago I woke up with a terrible hangover and was barely able to join in the last event, the relay race. Last year I couldn’t attend because I was in the States for Brandon’s wedding. This year though, I was able to make a fair showing, arriving just at the start of the opening ceremonies and participating in a handful of events throughout the day. Much to my chagrin, my admission that I’m not fast was fresh in the memories of our team captain, and so I was registered for the distance run, the flag carry, and the chicken fight.

The other week at my company’s retreat I spent the first forty-five minutes of recreation time running laps inside the health center, which I figure must have been about four or five miles. So, I thought that the two kilometers of the undoukai distance run would be no trouble, and it wasn’t. However, I made two mistakes; one of pacing myself too slow (I wasn’t very tired after the event was over), and the other of not being able to count my laps accurately. So, I pulled up too soon and when I realized I had one more to go, I poured it on to no avail. Having someone to cheer me on and give some sort of hand signals as to how many laps I had to go would have helped. But, the experience taught me that I need to get to know my body a lot more intimately to race competitively (even if this even was more for fun and community than unabashed conquest).

The flag race was over before it began, as we had to carry our choukai banner less than fifty meters before handing it off to the next relay member. The chicken fight was pretty interesting, though again, my glaring lack of experience kept me in the dark and ended our tour rather quickly. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture because I was in the thick of things, but basically myself and two other adults locked hands while a young boy rode on my shoulders and swung a foam bat, in the hopes of breaking a balloon on the opposing “army’s” rider’s helmet, while they attempted to do the same to us. Long story short, I was a poor war horse and my rider was knocked out of action fairly quickly.

All in all, it was a good day– good weather, good food, and I got a load of laundry done before the heading to the uchiage (closing party). There we briefly licked the wounds of finishing last overall, and there was the occasional muttering about some rival choukai using spikes to gain an advantage in the events. For the most part, though, it was business as usual. Things started out awkward. I wished I didn’t come alone, I tried to eat as much oden as possible, my elderly neighbors pushed “rice water” onto to me amid a growing torrent of backslapping humor. I haven’t had any hard sake in years, and it showed as I could barely taste the stuff while my partners put down glass after glass of it. Luckily, they felt a little sorry for me and so I was given far more than my fair share of beer. At the end when our district politician Yabe-san showed up, I was quick to loudly welcome him to the celebration.

I really should be cooking this week’s lunch rations or cleaning the house, but I’m pretty worn out so it’s just going to be a night of half-motivated blogging and a corny remake of The Poseidon Adventure on TV.

Graveyard cats

Before taking a shower today I absentmindedly wore my glasses down to the bathroom and took advantage of the fact to weigh myself. Contrary to what I thought was happening, I’m actually down to 63 kilograms; which means I’ve lost about five pounds since coming to Japan this year and have reached a gully that even I don’t remember experiencing before. All through high school and college I seemed to weigh as much as 150 (when living the “fat” life in Seattle) and as little as 143 (during my crazy work months at Carnegie Mellon). I guess this new record is due in part to the stress and poor sleeping habits I’ve acquired in the last four-six weeks. I take some solace that what I do consume is a fairly good balance of vegetables, bread and low-fat meats and tea. My only vice is the once-or twice weekly drinking excursion with a choice partner in crime. It’s probably pretty stupid that I check the shape of my abs at least every other day. Anyway…

So today I decided I needed to take advantage of the good weather and my spirit and go outside. And go outside I did. Got a shower, got some Subway, watched a couple episodes of TNG, and hit the road on two Hawkins at 2:00. That was six hours and a considerable distance ago. Quantitatively, I walked for a little over four hours with perhaps four or five two-minute breaks. Judging by my stride and that the average person walks roughly four miles an hour, I’d say I must of covered 16-20 miles (+54 photographs and one video of a rooster in a pet shop window). I was just wandering mostly with the occasional checking of the sun to make sure I was heading in a net south-by-southeast direction. I caught glimpses of places I’d been before, but for the most part navigated entirely new territory.

I started at my home in Sendagaya and took the pictures of the rebel vine I mentioned yesterday, and then worked my way SSE to One’s Diner, an American-style burger establishment that is amazingly open until at least 1:00a on a Sunday night despite being in pretty much the middle of nowhere. From here I struck due east under an ivy-dripping overpass that has always fascinated me. On the other side was a quite artfully done series of graffiti that I think I’ll enjoy working with in Photoshop quite a bit. But for now, here is a small sample of the original.

My MP3 player and Tiesto died shortly after while photographing a particularly decrepit-looking apartment building. I thought for sure the battery meter was nearly full when I left the house, but this was the same charge that got me through over two hours of train rides to Chiba and Kawasaki the weekend before.

From there I continued east through Jingu-gaien and caught the southeast corner of snazzy Aoyama. About three quarters of the way to Akasaka I turned a sharp due south and headed through the rather large Aoyama Cemetery. I’m not sure if it’s irreverant to view and photograph the burial places of a culture not my own, but I was feeling exceptionally curious and taking a line from Star Trek II thought “the way in which one faces death is at least as important as the way in which one faces life.” I was amazed and sobered by the varied condition the graves were kept in. Some were meticulously manicured with all of the organic elements fresh and vibrant, while others were littered with overgrown weeds, decayed flowers and loose rocks. I suppose those that remember the dead, even they themselves pass away after time, and there comes a point where no one is left to care for their memorial.

It smelled heavily of incense and sweet flowers, and seemed appropriately quiet even though a maze of small roads cut through the canopy of trees. At first I felt sorry to see a lonely cat sitting by a grave, but after a few minutes I discovered that the place was in fact crawling with them…black cats, white cats, calico cats…cats alone, cats in pairs. The two things common between all of them were the unkempt fur and a look of distrust behind tired eyes. They weren’t defensively hostile when I beckoned to them, but they all had their comfort zones that eventually I would transgress to send them trotting behind a bush or vase. On my way out I passed an old man and woman with a small shopping cart opening pungent cans of tuna for a small audience of starved guests.

Somehow I came out of south end of the cemetery and got turned around, completely missing Roppongi (where I thought I was heading) and cut through Nishi-azabu back west into Hiroo, just north of Tengenji. Along the way I passed a large number of bars, pizza parlors and Chinese restaurants (all of which were closed since it was hardly four). I wish I could visit all these charming establishments. The droves of chain restaurants akin to Applebee’s, Red Robin and TGIFriday’s have _not_ yet set in here, so virtually every watering hole is bubbling with effervescant personality [and bad spelling. If I had 1000 yen for every time I’ve had Itarian food in the last month…]. One dark store in particular drew my attention as the setting sun was caught off the glistening, decapitated bodies of two dozen roast (what I assume were) ducks. As is my nature, I also stopped in a used furniture shop and coveted the rows of impeccably well-kept chairs, couches and coffee tables. I dream so often of having a spacious ultra-hip condominium filled with late 70s and 80s western furniture, lovingly maintained for my lanky frame. But, unfortunately most of the pieces in these kind of stores carry price tags of a month’s rent or more, so building the perfect swellegent digs will just have to wait until I win the lottery (after I start playing it of course).

Continually avoiding the signs for Shibuya I made my way west-by-southwest into the eastern side of Ebisu, at which point I got it into my head I was going to walk to Shinagawa (partly because it seemed like a far way south to be proud of reaching, and partly because I figured that was almost halfway to Mikiko’s place in Kawasaki, so I could give her a call when I got there and tell her I was in the area). With a firm destination in sight, I picked up the pace slightly and did my best to keep due south. However, the snaking train lines and narrow side streets led me into more switchbacks, greatly slowing down my progress. Always the apartment window-shopper, after reading several featured advertisements, I started thinking 150,000 yen (1300 USD) a month isn’t so bad for two little rooms in the foreigner-friendly Ebisu.

Eventually at dusk I came to Meguro (which had some nasty hills that reminded me of the northwest corner of Seattle). The houses here were oddly large for being inside the Yamanote line and had a warm, friendly, yuppie feeling that reminded me of my ‘hometown’ Kizu in Nara. Mothers walked chatting, while their young children struggled to keep up on colorful bicycles with training wheels.

From there I left the inviting residential areas with the fading sunlight and followed the Yamanote line more or less past Gotanda to Osaki. Not an overly impressive section of town, but still, I was satisfied to find several more bouquets of shopping centers and amusement areas. It seems you never have to go far in Tokyo to find something interesting to do. After reaching Osaki eki, I got seriously wound up due to a vast jungle of crumbling warehouses, factories and train tracks. I’m not sure if I felt lonely or slightly scared in the gloomy morass of rust that slowly crept up on me. Suddenly buildings were low and wide, and every venue that seemed the best path to walk looked moderately dangerous. Even the previously blue and cloudless sky had somehow become brooding and overcast without my notice. There was one point where I went through a series of small tunnels with no shoulder, though the signs outside indicated walking through was not an unheard of possibility.

I crossed the dark green Meguro-gawa several times before discovering at roughly 5:40 that I had gone too far south and was nearing the bay. The Yamanote line actually does a hairpin between Osaki and Shinagawa, and I had to cut sharply NNE a few more kilometers following the Keikyu line (quite the opposite direction I wanted to go had I been actually travelling to Kawasaki) until I got to JR Shinagawa. It was now quite dark and the only light that met my eyes was a strangely unsecure-looking import car showroom that had about half a dozen highly polished late 80s Ferraris for sale.

I called Mikiko a couple times but her phone was off so I left a message and after a quick (and easy) debate about whether to go to Shinjuku or Shibuya and get in trouble, I got on the Yamanote line and fell half-asleep until arriving back home at Yoyogi (15 minutes by train to bee-line the previous four hours’ wanderings). Despite being numb and a little worn out I felt quite satisfied having seen the a wide swawth of Tokyo’s boroughs…posh department stores, quaint restaurants, cozy homes, barren train yards, and exhausted industrial monoliths; all with my own two feet.

After that, a beer (in a bottle!) an another episode of TNG to catch my breath brought me back to the taxing (but necessary) task of recording this. If only my thoughts could be directly converted to text! Maybe I should get an audio blog like Wil Wheaton. Then I can just talk to myself (which I usually start doing anyway after walking or driving for more than three hours).

[It has taken two hours to write, link, and edit this post!!]

The things that make life sweet (pt. 3)

I carried “Flowers for Algernon” around in my coat pocket today so I could read it during lunch and break. I also have gotten into the questionable habit of reading it when I walk, I just started this morning and I’m already up to page 50. Books have an interesting way of affecting my behavior. It may be kind of silly, but as Charlie is growing more and more intelligent, I’ve found myself walking with better posture and thinking about everything in more than one dimension at a time. I want to believe that I have the potential to be exceptionally bright, and just as the Dalai Lama says of happiness, I feel my capacity for intelligence and learning is dependent largely on my attitude and the way I approach the challenges I encounter each day.

Anyway, I’m writing mainly to report that mood is continuing to skyrocket. It seems that ever since the weather changed things have been markedly different. I still feel great mentally, even though I am fully conscious of how precarious a position I’m putting myself in by not resting. In addition, the temperature has plummeted from a humid 87 on Friday to a poor shadow of summer with a high in the mid 60s. People say this kind of dramatic change makes it easy to get sick, but I’m so thrilled to be able to have my window open and feel the brisk evening I don’t care. I didn’t get to cleaning the dishes I mentioned earlier as I probably should, in fact at work I toyed with the idea of putting it off until tomorrow morning when I have to take out the trash, but the odor right now is demanding otherwise. It’s just a pain in the neck dealing with the common space downstairs that I’m trying to avoid, not the actual dish washing itself (which I actually enjoy).

Tokyo is a city of 12 million people. I’m not sure how many I get to see on a daily basis just walking to the train station and back, but I’d guess it’s close to several hundred if not a thousand. Shinjuku eki is the busiest train station in the world, over one million people go through it _every day_. I’m one of that million, twice, though I have the entrances, exits, times and train doors memorized so well it’s quite effortless for me at this point. The great thing about the cold weather is the crowds are no longer oppressive with heat and humidity, but rather a Dionysian field of pleasant fragrances both synthetic and natural. I CAN’T GET OVER how fantastic girls smell. It may just be that I’m starstruck, or in one of the most fashionable cities in the world, but Japanese women seem leagues more feminine than their American counterparts. Ack, my head is going to explode from so much coquettish allure.

Life is an ever-evolving, biomechanical, multi-dimensioned beast of synaesthesia, and I possess the means to navigate its bloodstream en force.

The Tokyo Game Show is this weekend. w00t.

Not quite the beginning

…feels like it’s just begun.” So, here I am. Not quite at the beginning but a good long ways from the end. Will this young creative sapling live to a ripe, old age as an honest oak? Or will the drought of apathy and neglect choke off the budding potential of sweet fruit? Who knows, who cares? No one at this point. I’m 23 years old, incredibly switched on by all the crazy little pleasures of life, and at the same time feeling more than a little alone, almost half a world away from county fairs, tractor crossings and okra.

I’ve been in Japan for 39 days now, though it’s not the first time. It is, however, the first time I’ve ever gone someplace without a return ticket. I live in Tokyo, one of the most populous cities in the world (over 12 million). I’m kinda right in the center. If you know anything about Tokyo, I live in Yoyogi, walking 15 minutes to Shinjuku and about 20 to Shibuya. I was a small town guy, but now I’m a big city guy. I like it because there is virtually everything you could conceivably want here (aside from the grazing animals I left behind in America).

When I was about 18, my best friend Brandon and I got our hands on a copy of Moby’s Everything is Wrong. We gave it our first serious listen on our way down to well-to-do Virginia girls’ college Sweetbriar; we were going to see his friend play in a field hockey match. The goalie of the opposing team had on so many thick pads she reminded me of Megaman. But the point is that album was the pivotal first pop rocks and jolt cola that started us on a journey to insane digital music mania. Since then, I can’t begin to describe how much the evolution of my appreciation for electronica (and subsequently idyllic rave culture) has profoundly impacted my life. One may argue I am where I am today because the beats never stopped, so neither have I. Much more on that later.

Anyway, this, my first blog is called Autumn Tactics because a) it’s one of the top 10 pivotal pieces of music that are interwoven with my inescapable past (particularly being in Japan), and b) because some rat took my current Blogger username (LoveParade) and made a blog named after it. Just kidding, you’re not a rat. If you embrace the same sort of acoustic religion I do, it’s all good.

PS – I’m Shift-JIS enabled, and such will some of my links be. So I recommend installing Japanese font support for your terminal if you want to check out any of the cool eastern stuff I’ll mention (it’s not hard).

Peace, Love, Unity and Respect