Thru the Eye of Obscure

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Simon Flower 11/05/98

hey gang!!!!!!

ok, here goes. I finally have some time off to write, unfortunately i slept through yesterday so missed my chance at email armageddon. Yep, its weird, the trains here stop at 12.30 am, then start up again at 4.30-5. Its crazy, i would have thought it would cost more to do that than just keep going 4 more hours. Yeah anyway i slept in because i went to a club called 'blue' ( eddie gleney put me onto this one), it was pretty cool. 3 floors underground, mostly jazz, then a dark dancefloor with dancefloor jazz and other dancey stuff. Door charges here are excessive to say the least, usually around 3000yen ($40). Its a fucking expensive city, make no mistake.

Coming with NZ $ is just a joke, i came here with nearly $4500 cash, and its all gone! haha, oh well, thems the breaks. If you are earning yen here its cool, the costs are pretty much relative to what people earn. The other thing to do with that, ALL payments here are done monthly. Rent/power/gas/ wages. Its hard to budget, but then, since im not getting my first pay check till june 15th, i guess i dont have to worry(sic) I can see a rather cheap birthday this year.....

what were my first impressions of tokyo? honestly, "a shithole", to put it politely. Its grey buildings as far as the eye can see, wherever you are. The air is thick with pollution and the skies are permanently grey. hmmmmm dont sound good does it? Obviously it didnt take me too long to get past all this.

This is without a doubt an amazing city.

It is kind of divided into really exact little areas, each with its own signature. I spent the first few days just travelling all day, being the quintessential tourist. The most amazing areas have to be shibuya and shinjuku. Both these places by night are unreal. Neon rules over here. I actually work in shinjuju (i live a couple of stops from there - only 10 minutes from the liquid room!), for a company called Nova ( biggest language school in japan). The interview for nova was basically this :

I: so simon, have you ever taught english before?

S: ah no, no i havent.

I: Ok, youre hired.

yeah, its really easy work, and i get paid 2300yen an hour.

Anyway, the population of New Zealand goes through the shinjuku train station every single day, its hard to comprehend that kind of magnitude unless you can see it in action.

Shibuya is kind of the young district, it filled with schoolgirls and baby yakuzas. Its cray to watch. Indeed, the schoolgirls here are an enigma. There are dozens of film crews in shibuya at anytime of day, interviewing the "SG". Its really sick, the SG in shibuya are all sunburnt, they take this tanning thing to unreal excess. They ALL have blond highlights in their hair. Basically they are all clones of each other, its more than a little disturbing. The same thing goes for the baby yakuzas (BY). They all wear grey shirts and have long hair, also with blond highlights. They hang out on the corners in shibuya literally grabbing girls and trying to get them to do whatever, porn etc i guess. It would be totally illegal in NZ, crazy harassment in the middle of the street, and no-one even cares. I love 'people watching' in shibuya, i can spend hours just leaning on a wall at the center junction with millions of people swarming past me.

All the vinyl shops are in shibuya, about 12 shops in the space of high st. The best techno shop is called technique, filled with every goodie i have every wanted. Luckily for me, the owner of technique also has a record label with 'as it is'/'shady acorns' ( the company which distributes Nurture), so i have met up with him. Him and his girlfriend are taking me to some clubs this weekend, and showing me around his studio blah blah. He seems like a nice chap, good to have contacts like this!!!! Also i willl be doing interviews for a tokyo techno/house web site called Perfecto, i dont have the www.address with me , next time ok....Actually maybe you can access it from

What else?

Japanese Tv is insane, pure and simple. It consists soley of cooking shows, and the occasional game show or news show, always with some kind of cooking segment involved. You could turn on tv at ANY time of the day and find your screen filled with someone chowing down on some morsel. They like extreme closeups of people actually eating the food.

Speaking of TV, i actually have a 300 channel cable big screen Tv in my gaijin house. Now i can almost hear Jared (langguth) salivating from here, but before you get too excited jared, most of those channels are in japanese anyway ok? anyway, i didnt come to japan to watch the box!

My guest house is pretty cool. About 18 people live there, about 5 japanese, and the rest are all nova teachers! Totally by chance. I live on the ground floor, small room, about half the size of my room in nz, but only 3 of us live downstairs, all the rest live upstairs!!!! Massive kitchen, big living room, couches, tv etc. I pay 65,000yen per month, about average here.

so what other oddities are regular fodder here in tokyo? the most obvious has to be the hoiking in public. Its not at all unusual to be sidestepping big greenies on the footpath. To sit on the train and spend 10 minutes trying to hoick up phlegm is no big thing. What also seems to be no big thing is urinating in the streets. This pastime is strictly for men, so sorry ladies, you will have to find a restroom. Well this isnt that common, not in the big areas anyway, but i have seen a few "instances" already. Everyone sleeps on the trains, i have had a 6 people fall asleep on my shoulder already.

Vending machines!!!!! they are evreywhere!, even backstreets. I have 3 vending machines in my backyard. Ive also got a 7-11 over the road ( the road being 2 metres wide), so im never going to go hungry! Cellphones!! every freak and his dog has a cellphone, ever SG has one. If they arent talking on them, they just stare at them, willing them to ring. Its a real culture here. oh yeah.....

THE CROWS! the goddam crows. No-one ever told me this city is infested with giant black birds. Bigger than a cat, they can peck the eyes from a dead baby at 20 feet, and can speak english and japanese fluently. Indeed, birds to be reakoned with.

I have to keep reminding myself i have only been here 3 weeks. I feel like i have always lived here, I have had no culture shock and havent had any problems doing anything. You dont need to speak japanese, but i can see how if you did you could be such a lord here. Needless to say, i will be continuing my japanese lessons over here.

Its become vey apparent to me that you could spend a whole lifetime looking around this city and still not even get close to seeing the whole thing , if such a thing exists. Honestly I never really thought of tokyo being this asian. I had images of it being very western. Its more like an asian new york ( thats how i have heard it referred to). Streets have little streets coming off them, which have even smaller streets coming off them. Every doorway is a shop, people ride bikes and motorbikes on the pavement. Not that there is any pavement except in the main streets of the big districts. So many japanese!! haha, but seriously, on any given day, even if i go to the big districts, i might only see half a dozen foriengers. hm ok, im going to leave it there, dont want to spoil you all at once.

im going to check this addy every few days, this cafe is the first internet terminal i have found in 3 weeks searching.

ok, from tokyo,

this was simon flower reporting......