12:45 PM, Friday, May 20th 2005:
Mt. Fuji from the train ride back from Kyoto
It's amazing that a place so foreign to me can now seem like "home". I'm looking forward to my tiny room in Shinjuku with a private bathroom and free internet access after lugging my laptop all over Kyoto searching for a friggin' hookup. In the strangest of ways, Tokyo feels like home.
Rest assured however, it is not - and there's only one way that I would ever truly consider moving here as I spoke of before. At least a year of japanese. I know you can get by without it, but I'm done feeling like an absolute stranger. If I were to live here, even for a couple of months, I would absolutely want a solid grasp on the language. It would make situations like my second night in Kyoto a lot more fun. You know, there's a lot of little stories that have been skipped over because of the unbelieveability of the rest of the days events. Zipping through Japan on the shinsaken seems a perfect time to tell a few. I love having a laptop!
Random shit:
01 - I was well rested, and slightly restless around 9:30 PM and remembered seeing a bar/grille during my walkabouts in Kyoto so I thought I'd hit it up. It was a smoky place with about 10 people in their 20s drinking and laughing it up. I of course sat by myself at the bar. I wanted some Asahi, I wanted some Sake and I wanted to smile...
...boy did I get my wish. It wasn't but 15 minutes into the sake that everything, and I do mean everything, became HILARIOUS. Every word, every face, every was awesome. It was like I was back home, staring at my glass of beer when I'd look up and have someone SCREAMING some alien language in my face to the person behind me. It took everything I had to not laugh my ass off. I did eventually, it was a jovial bar and they knew I was getting shit-faced. They had a good time with me. They tried to make me eat Chicken Ovary. I chose little strips of sirloin instead. I ended up getting quite giggly and finally stumbling back to my hotel while singing Harry Connick Jr. songs in the streets and thinking of Jess. Very strange little adventure I must say.
02 - As I was walking back to my ryokan yesterday afternoon I saw a little girl getting on her bike and I smiled at her. She looked almost confused and slightly frightened so I tried to give her a really big reassuring smile as I passed. She looked down and to her right concentrating...and in the tiniest, cutest voice imaginable said: "No, thank you..." and proceeded to get on her bike. It almost didn't register. "Did she just say that?" I thought... I realize her parents probably taught her a few english phrases to use in such situations (she couldn't have been more than 5) but I was just horrified that she had to delve into her little head to some emergency english phrase to use in what she thought was a dangerous situation when all I did was smile. Made me feel horrible. It seemed very robotic, and something I noticed about the women my age and younger. They seem to be almost forbidden to make eye contact with anyone...ever. I've noticed many will look at you right away because you're so different and then immediately turn and put their head down as if on auto-pilot. It's noticeably different than any other culture I've been in.
But I feel so bad for this poor little girl who concentrated so hard to almost whisper those words as if I was somehow offering her something she didn't want. Then again, she probably meant to say "Sup sup DAWG!" and picked the wrong phrase. LOL.
03 - Another thing in Kyoto I never mentioned - no sushi bars, except for of course "THE INCIDENT" which will not be spoken of again, to be found. Finally today I saw one at the train station but in the entire city I couldn't find any. It was all noodles and whatnot. And like 5 McDonalds. I really think it's because Kyoto is such a big tourist attraction you only see things that most Americans / Europeans wouldn't mind eating. Total bummer though.
...and in a sense, so was Kyoto. It felt really commercial when it's all said and done. Of course the temples, shrines and castles were awesome - but they were inundated with shops selling crap like it was a friggin' ride at Disney World. "You saw the big Buddha? Now buy your own little buddha". And near every temple within the city of Kyoto - lines of shops selling religious trinkets. Every shop with the same manufactured stuff, but again - just out of place. I'm not religious, but it seemed wrong even to me to see so much commercialism around such incredibly sacred monuments. As I said before, I guess that's just what's to be expected by the people in that city. It's normal evolution in a commercial society to try to find a way to profit from the millions of people coming to your city. Hey, at least everything is still standing.
But nothin' beat the Deer Park... ;-)
04 - There was a crying baby on the tour bus that slightly annoyed everyone. Guess who's sitting next to me on the train to Tokyo? (sigh). I'm not sure you can comprehend the chances of that. There's about 25 trains to tokyo everyday. There's 15 cars with 20 rows each. I actually changed my ticket and took the an earlier train... yet they are in my row. LOL. Sweet baby though when she's sleeping.
05 - The concierge, Tani, at my 2nd ryokan knew some english but was also 1/2 deaf with these massive hearing aids hangin' out of both ears. So what ensued every time I would come or go would be easily the most comical moments in Kyoto. LOL. He was excited to talk, and I was happy to try and help him, but I didn't know if I needed to speak up or choose different words. That's been the way of communication out here. Like when asking about internet connections I'd say "Internet? Wifi? LAN? Computer?" - usually the combination would trigger something. But with this guy, he could very well just not actually have heard me so it was a combination of yelling, rewording, yelling, laughing. Good times.
06 - Man, I can't believe I never mentioned this. Tokyo and Japan in general have to be 2nd only to China in the amount of bicyclists.Nothing is more amazing than watching a 70 year old man run along side his bike to gain speed and then jump on it, weave around an oncoming car and back onto the narrowest sidewalks filled with people and other bikes. As well the sidewalks are LINED with parked bikes with these self contained locks on them. In the states those puppies would be stolen in a heartbeat, but it's as if it doesn't even cross the minds of the citizens here. It's also probably because the bikes are so cheap and not worth what's bound to be an insanely stiff penalty. Who knows. Still glad I wasn't caned for taking a picture in Shogun's Castle. ;-)
07 - Man even more stuff. Can't believe all these little things I missed. I may not have found my soul in Kyoto but I damn sure found my pillow. In both ryokans I stayed at they had these pillows filled with hundreds of tiny hollow plastic balls. About twice the size of a pea. The support it allows is incredible. What was great was I could lay on my side and not put any pressure on my shoulders as the plastic balls had less give than a normal pillow. I gotta find one of these puppies in the states.
08 - The water pressure here is un, friggin', believeably powerful. Like almost painfully so. I felt like a civil rights activist the first time I took a shower. (oh that's angry emailer fodder for SURE - LOL) And hot? SCORCHING. Immediately. Turn on the hot water first? You will MELT your skin off. It really is something. I wouldn't be devoting a paragraph to it if it didn't surprise me every time I hop in a shower here. Strange considering how conservative they are with energy you know? But they probably have an amazing recycling system, and of course this is an island. No need to have a water crisis (AHEM California).
Hang on, gonna show this Japanese guy next to me the "Kabuki-No" video...
(hour later)
Well there's my #9. This should be a Top Nine List like back in the day. Aha! That's what it'll be! Anyway - he dug the video and we started to talk. He knows some english. It was a riot getting to talk to him. He's about 24, was dressed in his business suit. EVERYONE dresses in black business suits here. It's wild.
So after the video he asked what I did, and we trudged through that exchange. Hell I can barely explain it to americans, let alone someone from Japan. Luckily I had my laptop with me and I was able to show him the site. Then of course the funny part: "Is your band in the other cars?". Train cars mind you. LOL. It was so funny to explain to him they were all me. He really didn't get it. I'd say it but then he'd point to G and look confused. Finally he understood and laughed and laughed. So of course I had to give him a DVD. And being that he has a band, plays clubs, and can help me translate when I come back... well this is officially a business trip. ;-) He was so excited about the DVD. Exchanged email addresses and wants to hook-up in LA at some point. Very cool indeed. Too bad he was only staying in Tokyo on business.
I had a paper I was reading that talked about things going worse than expected in Iraq and he saw my disdain. He asked if I agreed with Bush and I said no. He asked if the American people agreed, and I just replied that we voted for him, so we must. Then I asked him about his Emperor. I think it's Akihito? Sorry if I'm wrong there. He goes: "Fuckin' Akihito..." and I said:  "Yeah! Yeah! Fuckin' Bush!!!" It was quite the bonding moment. LOL. He tried to explain exactly why he had hard feelings but it was just too difficult to find the words. I feel YA buddy. ;-) It should be interesting to see how our email interractions work out. I really want to learn Japanese now...
Man what a cool entry! Everyone will skip this because it has no pictures, but there's some cool little tidbits in here. Here you go. One picture I took tonight is just great:
I know I have my stereotypes wrong here, but something about kittens in a picnic basket seems rather wrong don't you think? Cute though.
Alright. LAST FULL DAY TOMORROW!!!!! Expect adventures in subway riding!!!
PS - Finally, a way to use some of the clips that I couldn't fit into the entry videos. Here's 9 more randoms...