welcome to violence
3 hour train to Kyoto. Saw Fuji finally. It was a mountain for sure. Man I can’t wait to type with a real keyboard again! We watched Grave of the Fireflies to pass time. That is a fucked up movie — Ghibli tricked us! Good though.
Kyoto is interesting. It’s small and easy to navigate but end up in the wrong area at the wrong time and it seems like a ghost town. In the right area it’s very vibrant. We met Andrew after getting there had some mediocre food at a weird trendy place with lots of teletubby toys. Then we explored a shrine at night. There are temples and shrines everywhere in Kyoto, on almost every street. I don’t know anything about them but the architecture is next level. Afterwards we went to some bars. First a Bob Dylan bar then a Rolling Stones bar. The bartenders are always cool.
Andrew left us the next day and we were on our own. We rented two bikes and biked across the city for the whole day. The west end has a river running north-south with an amazing bike path next to it which we took to a very touristy area but also to a bamboo forest path. Amazing bamboo all around you as high as a tall pine tree. We asked for directions from a 70 year old local and he ended up carrying Lynne’s bike up a set of stone steps in the blistering heat. Locals are awesome here. This bike ride has been the highlight for me so far.
When we got back home we met with some LA people we met at our hostel. We wandered for a while before finding this classy ass bar on the 10th floor with a crazy view of the city. They called it a night and we continued to a hukkah bar where we managed to integrate with the locals. We started partying with some local university guys and some other Gaijin tourists joined in. Thing is, in Japan you party either until last train (1am) or until first train (5am). We partied until first train. They took us to a hip hop bar and all the guys loved Lynne. They taught me the word for beautiful so I kept repeating it to all the girls we came across. Long story short: we made some friends. By the time we left it was full sunlight out. We crashed until midday.
Took it super easy today but missed the big festival in the city. We went to the market which is amazing if you like severed fish heads and octopus-on-a-stick. It was interesting. We then wandered towards temples. We got some Yakitori though we ran out of cash. The piece of shit said credit was ok but then suddenly it wasn’t. There nearest international ATM was several blocks away so the employee walked with us to it then back. What a bastard, and yet even though he was probably fuming with annoyance he never showed it and kept apologizing to us. After we went to a bar called Django which wasn’t based on the movie but was instead a Django Reinhardt music bar that was infused with surrealist imagery on the walls. The owner loves David Lynch and played us the Twin Peaks soundtrack then gave us a CD as a present. Coolest guy. He sat in the corner smoking a pipe and trying to talk to us about surrealist art and Neil Young playing at Massey Hall. Afterwards we stumbled upon these semi-douchey guys from the night before who are from France. We just went back to ING bar (rolling stones place). The bartender is the happiest man on earth I think. He’s just rocking out constantly.
Tomorrow we consider a day trip to Osaka.
Pretty touristy day but awesome regardless. Our last day in Tokyo before we return before leaving. Kohtaro’s mom wanted to meet us really badly and they bought us Sumo tickets for the day. She didn’t speak any English but it didn’t really matter she spoiled us to the point of no return. But that’s customary of the people of Japan. We went to the Edo Tokyo Museum then Sumo. Sumo is the best sport in the world. It solves the problem of every other sport: the matches last 10 seconds tops. Amazing. So intense.
Side-note: fuck ipad keyboards.
Afterwards they brought us to a traditional restaurant on the waterfront just north of the Skytree. Awesome view. We got some fried eel. ‘twas good.
Worst day. Best night. Changed hotels so we are in Tsukiji now. So hard to get here from Shinjuku even the information people were complicating things. Couldn’t check in til 3 so I decided we’d kill a few hours by walking from Tsukiji to Daiba and Palette Town. Turns out that was a two hour walk… along a highway. Big sight is the “rainbow bridge” then we realized there would be no lights on it during the day. Finally got to Daiba and it sucked ass. Tourist trap area with nothing cool. Miniature Statue of Liberty is not cool. Lynne was not happy.
But then we walked around Ginza just north of us. It was like any big city high-end shopping district but still really cool. We went to Muji which is the coolest Ikea ever and isn’t in Toronto so more trend points for me! We then met with some family friends: Eri, Kazou, Kohtaro and Ayana and had the craziest meal ever. We all got drunk on champagne and although Kazou couldn’t speak a lick of English he was the coolest Japanese guy ever.
We passed out hard because they kept feeding us and our pathetic Canadian stomachs could only handle so much.
But then we got up at 3:30 to go to the Tsukiji tuna auctions (see Jiro Dreams of Sushi) but they were fully booked by 4am!! So instead we got this sashimi that makes the best Toronto sushi taste like rubber. So good at 4am. Walked around and took pics then napped. Kohtaro arrived and we went back and saw the area full of dead fish and giant tuna heads and bodies. We had the urge to eat so we did that with this crazy seafood mix bowl that was good but too much for us to handle so we napped again.
From here we ended up in Akihabara which is pervert paradise. It’s the anime epicenter of the world. We went to a 9 story electronics store that was like a full Future Shop on each floor. I think I saw over 20 racks exclusively for batteries. Where we see a single rack of calculators as sufficient these people see a whole a whole aisle as bare minimum. We found a section/floor for massage chairs. People were passed out in them. We tested two and they were the greatest things ever, possibly. I think the ranking of great inventions goes: the wheel > massage chairs > refrigeration. Then we went to a gross arcade where these guys play for so long they keep ashtrays on the machines with them. Gaming is weird here.
We ignored Andrews advice and went to a maid cafe. If there is a hell, this is it. The girls try to be super cute but our girl clearly was faking it. What a bitch. They do “magic” to make your food taste better which means that without the magic it must taste like aborted fetus. The prices are insanely high and I realized we were duped as stupid tourists but 90% of the people were local teens who were REALLY into it. It’s like a weird subculture for kids whose parents are ashamed of them. I paid for a picture with two girls and got what I paid for. Wanted to look super pimp for my Facebook friends but then the girls put bunny ears on me and told me to “kuu kuu” and act like a cat. So I did. We tried to leave but then all the maids started singing and dancing to insanely loud j-pop and some of the locals who come here voluntarily starting thrashing around like at a concert. There was no maid to take our filthy money. Then the maids seemed to multiply, how I am not sure. There were 3 then suddenly there were like 7. Their pupils are gigantic like anime girls and Lynne thinks its contact lenses but clearly these girls are high on ecstasy because how else can you explain this? When we did leave we had to wait for the elevator in the cafe which took FOREVER and so the girls just stood there waving at us for a weird amount of time.
So when you consider Akihabara, say “on second thought lets not go to Akihabara, it is a silly place.”
I’ll try to keep this short. On Wednesday our schedule was all messed up and we woke up at 7 so we tried finding some Japanese breakfast but aren’t certain it is a thing. So we ended up in Shinjuku Park which is huge, dense and cool. From there we walked in circles for an hour before realizing we were looking at the map upside down. So Gaijin. We went to Tokyu Hands which is a cool 8 floor department store thats trendy, i guess, in an Ikea sort of way. They had creeepy toys and space food. We started walking south towards Shibuya except everything that seems close is at least 40 min away. We got as far as Harijuku, the crazy fashion block which was sooo touristy. One of those places where the same gimmicky t-shirt is sold at every store. It’s teenage girl shopping heaven tho. Everything is pink, glossy and J-pop blasting from everywhere. It was overwhelming but that goes without saying in Tokyo by this point.
Then we met an old family friend, Kohtaro, who took us to baseball. First we had curry chicken which you order from a vending machine then give the order ticket to the chef. It was a major game, Giants vs Tigers, the best teams in the league and the biggest rivalry. The game was kinda like a Jays game except people actually give a shit and aren’t drunk and gone by the 5th inning. The fan dedication is crazy. My favourite thing though is how you can buy a beer at a store and are allowed to bring it into the game. They even pour it into a cup for you! Somewhere a greedy MLB stadium owner shudders.
Side-note: no one jaywalks here. Kohtaro wasn’t familiar with the term. No matter how tiny the road, they will wait 5 min for the light to change. It’s an etiquette thing I believe.
We had to leave baseball early (went to extra innings) because we had reservations with Andrew and Alan (friend’s brother who lives in Tokyo). We had this crazy food called Shabu Shabu where you basically make a broth of spices and veggies on burners on your table then dip raw meat into the boiling broth and then dip it into sauces. It was amazing. Best food yet. The closest comparison I can make is Korean BBQ which is a very crude comparison.
Afterwards Andrew came with us to Golden Gai, a crazy stretch of HUNDREDS of bars in a couple square blocks. Each has room for like 3 guests. We went to a hard rock bar first where they gave us some pork and horseradish and had some beer. Then we followed the sound of English voices to another bar where some Aussies were drinking with this old lady bartender. She was the best. She gave us cool sake and played old Japanese jazz and sang to it. She was hammered. She told us about all the places she’s travelled to including Canada but she’s full of it.
Thursday we met with Andrew and went to Studio Ghibli museum. It was the coolest museum ever, the place was like an elaborate play-place and almost a maze. There was rooms plastered with awesome artwork and sketches and some unreal installations and animation things that I can’t describe. The museum plays a rotating series of Ghibli shorts exclusive to the museum. We saw “Mei and the Kittenbus” which is a sequel to My Neighbor Totoro. They also had their own pilsner which was really good, possibly the best beer in Japan. It was in this nice park out in Mitaka. But every park in Japan is nice. We explored the area for a while and had some Yakitori (meat skewers). We had some pork, beef, chicken and liver and some other body part which remains a mystery. We started with some pork tongue which was tasty. We came back to the hotel after that, took a too-long nap and just went out taking pictures after that. We saw lots of Pachinko which is sort of like slots but always themed with Gundam mech robots and anime girls.
Today we head to Chuo and Tsukiji.
This has to be the worst city in the world to arrive in after a 13 hour flight. Being exhausted and disoriented, this place is sooo confusing and overwhelming. I really doubt their could be another place more alien to me and Lynne than Tokyo. Every single thing we’ve come to know about how to operate in society is worthless here. Everything is done differently. So we look for a train/bus at the airport to get us to Shinjuku station which is my closest point of reference to our hotel. Buses are funny because the guys who toss your luggage on the bus bow at the bus as it departs. Once we got downtown (7pm) I realized my fatal flaw: I only had the address to the hotel, not a map. Now in somewhere like Rome I could find a place with an address. I’m not even sure streets have actual names here. I sure as hell can’t read them if they do. If you’re in a major hub/station you might get lucky with some English signage but for the most part, you’re fucked.
So we’re standing there with all of our luggage, super disoriented and trying to figure out how to do _anything_. Sliding doors have little panels you touch to have them open. It’s literally like seeing an automatic door for the first time I didn’t know how to use it and the locals hate me already. We tried using Starbucks wifi but couldn’t and Lynne tried ordering a “Tall Pike” which ruined the barista’s day and he mega-hesitantly gave her some sort of pastry. Some guy gave us a map and tells us we only have to change subway lines like a million times to get to the hotel (“super easy” he says) so we just get a god damn cab. We unpack, shower then venture back out to find Andrew.
We somehow find Andrew who shows us how to survive. The subway system is insanely overwhelming in its complexities but to say its better than the TTC is meaningless. You can’t compare the two. It’s night and day. The subway trains are huge and really nice and run ON TIME. Most impressive thing so far. Nobody talks on them though which is kind of creepy and so we were definitely the obnoxious Westerners that everyone hated. Oh yeah, and so many people where those medical masks that we find weird and creepy. Young people, old people, it’s totally accepted here so I want to wear one to fit in.
What little we’ve seen of Shinjuku so far is pretty crazy. It’s the most vibrant thing I’ve ever seen. Every nook in every building is another store and every floor to every 10 story building is another store. And every store is vying for your attention with a neon sign brighter than all the super bright signs vying for your attention around them. So it’s just a blast of light everywhere all the time.
Andrew brought us to this one area to get awesome food but they wouldn’t let us in—probably because we’re white—so we got ramen at this tiny ass shop where the cooks toss everything on the floor. The people here are painfully polite. They try to converse with you relentlessly despite not knowing any English. They also think tipping is insulting which I can live with.
After ramen we got beer and walked around the red light district for fun. Leave it to the Japanese to have the least intimidating red light district ever. Lots of school girls trying to pull you into their sketchy shops. Andrew baffled a few by telling them he didn’t like karaoke which confused them and they gave up hassling us instantly. We found Golden Gai which is amazing and we shall be drinking there tonight. Today we meet Kohtaro for crazy baseball action.
I’m mega jet lagged right now. It sucks.
Introducing The Anatomy of Horror
This ambitious video/animation essay project will examine the slasher film trend in an effort to discover the genre’s origins. Edgar Allan Poe, Italian gialli, Hitchcock, Vietnam, the Manson Family, serial killers, and political scandals. How did all of these factors help create Black Christmas, Halloween, Friday the 13th and more? Read the attached Concept Document, learn more, and if you have insights or talents to lend, please contact me!
If you have issues with the resolution, try either of these links:
OK now this one’s just ridiculously cool, Peter Strauss is far too talented for my liking.
A great trailer that gives off a strong, creepy vibe while keeping it’s best secret close to the chest — who is under the mask? It makes you curious and hopes its central mystery is enough to bring you in.