Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Club Asia & Angry Japanese Housemums

Hello, Nebraska!

I'd like to start off by saying that I know it's snowing there. I would like to continue by saying that I just finished a pleasant, 50 deg. midnight run. Conditions were perfect.

Club Asia
Friday night was bro night. Aaron Michael, Michael Aaron, and myself (Michael David.. it was an odd name-meld kind of sitch) put on our fancy pants and headed out to Shibuya to check out Club Asia. This is one of the best clubs in the city to play at for House Electronica artists, and, of course, Tokyo is a great hub of electronica anyway, so clearly this club is trump material. Dishner (Michael Aaron, goes by Aaron) was kind enough to invite me along for the ride.

Our train ride went smoothly, and when we got to Shibuya we wandered the streets for a little while in search of the club. I'm always amazed by the energy of Shibuya Station.. thousands and thousands of people wandering around this plaza, and yet this is only one of the many vibrant, hopping joints all around the city.

Y1000 per hour.. not bad!
On our way in, we passed by a love hotel. (Hotel "Elegance") Yes, this is the kind of hotel where you pay by the hour. If you have questions about what that means.. ask a trusted friend.

One important point is that this is not a brothel. In fact, the word is that many married couples use these when they want to "get out" since many houses are so small here. They even have theme rooms! I wonder what the American one looks like...

Feels just like home..
We also passed this guy in a cow outfit. There are tons and tons of people standing outside businesses doing advertising (yelling and wearing funny getups) in Japan, and this guy was no exception. But he reminded me of home just a little bit. I hate to ask for a photo-op, which he was MORE than happy to grant..

Once we got to Club Asia, it said no cameras.. but I wasn't worried. Always better to take a risk to preserve the moment, right? We were on the guest list because of a friend connection, and we only paid Y500 to get in!! That's six bucks (ordinarily more than $40)! Plus, we each got a drink ticket. We basically got in for nothing.

Once in, we stuffed our jackets in a rental locker and I found out what kind of show we were there to see. Cutie-Pai. That was the first artist we saw. And yes, she was a tiny Japanese gal. And, yes, she dressed like a life-sized doll.

Cos-play. They are a cos-play group. It's difficult to explain (explaining would require understanding), but playing dress-up is basically really popular here. It's like the Village People but with doll, video game, comic book, movie, and fantasy character costumes. Cutie-Pai is just one of many groups, and ordinarily there are six of them up there (all dressed like dolls).. it would be cool to see the full group. Sadly, it was just a lonely doll-girl.

She started out her show by saying something really funny, like "I am a doll robot from the future" or something like that. Dishner laughed, and explained a couple things to me, but I don't remember right now. She really got the crowd going. Then the music started. And everyone started dancing. They were all dancing JUST LIKE I DANCE.

This was epic. Yes, of course, most of them were a little more reserved than me on an average night, but I still had to smile inside and out. And the best part is that they were all doing it together, despite the absurdly varied demographic. There were old people, businessmen off work, teens, 20-somethings, all mimicking the artist's motions and dancing in between. The crowd was so unified! My favorite person was definitely a scrawny old businessman in glasses who looked like he was having the time of his life. There was also a dude wearing a polka dot outfit. It's Japan.

After the strongest kamikaze of my life, and a few more artists played, I realized I was having a lot of fun. All three of us were dancing and joining in just loving the show, which slowly got louder and louder. The visuals were awesome. It's the kind of scene that got America in trouble with cocaine in the 80s. I've never done hard drugs, but I'd imagine it would feel pretty great at something like this. (stay off crack, kids!)

Some of the artists did a live show like Cutie-Pai, but some were obviously just dancing to a track. I criticized this to Dishner, and he explained to me that recorded tracks were more popular than live shows here. Ashlee Simpson should reinvent herself as a Japanese Pop Star.

Cutie-Pai glamor shot
The last artist was definitely the best, and the loudest. After the crazy show, everyone went out and milled around the lounge area. I took this chance to scan some tables and pick up some merch. I also got glamor shots with some of the artists.

We three wandered the Streets of Shibuya briefly, and decided to hit a ramen place in Ikebukuro on the way home. It was really satisfying, as always, but probably some of the greasiest, oiliest ramen I've ever had (reminded me of food in the states, like a noodle-cheeseburger). We ordered our food out of a machine, which I had never done, and then took our ticket to the counter so they knew what to prepare for us. Interesting! Okay!

On the way home, sadly, we were forced to wait forty-five minutes on the train to leave Ikebukuru. This, of course, is the disadvantage of public transport. The bigger question in Japan (and sad commentary) is "did someone jump in front of a train?" It happens. Just does. In our case, no, we just got lucky enough to have to wait for no apparent reason. I'll still take that over the former.

All-in-all, that was one of the most authentic Japanese experiences I have had, to date, and I completely enjoyed myself. I'm exploring my J-Pop musical interests. I'll let you know what I find.

This is the part where I get in trouble with a Japanese lady..
The next day (Saturday) I was walking over to meet up with Nancy and some guests who she was showing around the city. I had just left my apartment on this beautiful day and was still in my neighborhood when I saw a balcony just FULL of clothes and laundry. Many people don't have driers here, and often just dry clothes outside or in special rooms of their houses.

I, of course, wanting to document this and many other characteristic sights of Japan, walked past the house and snapped a photo. I didn't see any unmentionables, and it seemed like a great shot. Well.. I must have overstepped myself. This small act has created an incredibly awkward situation with a neighbor.

You see, she was up on the balcony still putting out clothes, and she caught me taking my picture. I know, I know, carelessness. I should be perfecting the art of Gaijin-Cam, not getting caught in my shots. But alas, she did, and it led to an incredibly awkward interaction that lasted about 5 minutes.

Basically she repeatedly asked me questions in Japanese that I couldn't understand. I tried to explain that I was sorry and immediately had deleted the picture, but I don't know if there's a universal hand gesture for that. She seemed to be angry. I was flustered. She asked me my name, which I told her was Michael. And of course she understood I was in the TEAM housing. After a couple minutes of this humiliation, she let me go.

I thought I was off the hook and we could just forget about everything, but, tonight, while I was walking home from the station, she came up BEHIND ME ON A BICYCLE while I was walking down our street!!  ASDKJLFH %*$@)(#... how awkward. She asked me if I was Michael and again mentioned the photo, which I again unsuccessfully tried to explain to her that I was sorry and had deleted it. I understood absolutely nothing of what we spoke to each other, and then carried on to my house. It was so uncomfortable. I have no idea what to do about this situation except try to avoid her, but it is funny and embarrassing, and my own dumb fault. But, if this is the most embarrassing thing that's happened to me since I got to Japan, I guess I'm doing pretty good...

Anyway, wish me luck. Your prayer and encouragement means everything to me. Thank you everyone for reading this.

-Michael Out-

1 comment:

  1. You have the most interesting stories to tell, man. And sorry if this is mean, but I thought the story about you getting in trouble with the lady over the picture was really funny. I'm picturing you trying to explain that you didn't mean any harm, and you had deleted the picture (someone really ought to invent a universal gesture for that) and her shouting back at you in Japanese. Made me smile, is all I'm sayin. :)

    On another note, I hope you're doing OK with all the earthquake and tsunami destruction around you. We're praying for you, man.