Because the world needs more overwrought candour.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Serepax: The Invaluable Resource

Gawd, Serepax seems to be cropping up a lot more when perverts use Google. Some of my recent search terms:

"Saw my brother naked"
"15 y/o sex"
"Serepax successful suicide" (!)
"Bad boney bitches"
"Spit or swallow on casual relationships"
"Female vampire porn"
"Rubbing groping big fat ass subway bus"
"Japanese are subhuman"

Yep. That's me. Supplier of information to the world's freaks and ghouls. Enjoy!
Tidbits on sex and death

JR West Railways has gone into a damage control frenzy after the horrible crash last month (final death toll: 107) and another relatively minor bingle with a car (!). Now, at every JR station, the entrances are manned by obsequious employees who bow and thank you for using their service and bow some more. The head of JR is a dead man walking; he'll resign soon, but the fallout continues. It's the flipside of the fetishising of efficiency and timeliness; while I'm enormously happy to rock up to any station and know that the longest I have to wait is five minutes, it's still kinda scary knowing the pressure the drivers are under to get to the station not only on time to the second, but also to park the train so that the people lined up are matched with the correct doors.


Cancer is postmodern - the secret creeping betrayal of modernity, of progress. Here we are living now, full of energy, life, the only creatures free of the dictates of survival and here is the secret punishment for our rays and radiations and chemicals which freed us from the chains of evolutionary servitude.


I think that perhaps the reason that Christianity is so hung up on sex is because it makes breaking the rules so, so much more fun. As children, our parents played the role of God, the arbiters of Right and Wrong, controllers of the snack cupboard, punishers of wrongdoing. But everyone discovered early on that doing the wrong thing was really quite fun because of the potential for discovery, disclosure and punishment. Then our parents shrank back into normal people when we grew up and we needed someone else to tell us off, to tell us that a part of our lives was unnatural and that we shouldn't go there, so that when we did go there, it was a thrill, the forbidden fruit that was sweetest. That someone was God and our new foster parents were priests and they told us that sex and our animal natures were bad and had to be strictly controlled and that God created temptation for the sole purpose of resisting it but the truth is that the story of Adam and Eve and the apple and the snake is not a tragedy; it is not the Fall of Man that the Bible speaks of but the Cleverness of Man in creating such a powerful stigma for the sole purpose of breaking it down. It's why moral politicians and speakers always end up in sex scandals. Those who rail at immorality and vice are secretly battling their own flesh - that's how they can generate so much emotion about the issue - and so often they lose the battle and end up with their lives pinned and spreadeagled on a tabloid page one. I could talk about this as an abstract issue, but it's quite personal. Christianity made me feel bad about sex for a long time, but the thrill I earnt in breaking down those taboos isn't something I want to give up. I'm not angry about it. I'm happy. I only wish I could do it all over again.

Last generation, everyone knew that convent school girls went off like firecrackers in the sack. This generation, perhaps it's those forlorn kids who consecrate themselves to a sexless life pre-marriage who totally lose it when they get a little drunk and start fooling around on the sofa.


Snapshot; an aged businessman with gold buckles on his shoes and sagging jowls walks near - but not with - a girl who looks half-Filipino half-American perhaps, a mid-range whore, tall, sleek, sultry, exotic, but her sneakers and scowl shows that she's not good enough at acting and hiding to be a top-range whore; having recently purchased an orgasm from her he hitches his pants, cock no longer tumescent, the shrinking pains of post-sex showing in his shuffling gait, his attempt to rejoin society, to walk normally out of the love hotel district.
The Great Japanese Dream

For foreigners, Japan really is a land of opportunity, like America used to be before the class system tightened up. I think it's because gaijin operate in a shadowy realm outside the mainstream; there are few of us and people are generally a bit scared of us. I thought it was only in remote Vietnamese villages that children still shied away from a white face but not so - in the wilds of Osakan suburbia, anything can happen, and in the true countryside, I stand out even more clearly. Sometimes I feel like Dr. Livingstone. On Saturday night, I was obliged to attend a work party at my conversation school in Kobe, at which my boss had his camera stolen by a loitering fat Canadian and I was besieged by Japanese women cooing at me and fingering my hair and inspecting my eyes and describing their exact shade of blue and it was intensely uncomfortable. Anyhow, the upside is that people actually believe I can do what I say I can do. Yes, I'm a teacher. Of course I can work in a kindergarten. Next, I'm going to try and paint myself as a Good Christian to nail a wedding pastor job, and I'd still love to work in a host bar, flirting for money (which is what I do in my conversation school for lower wages) and after that, I want to work in an izakaya and learn me some proper Nihongo and who knows, perhaps I can talk my way into the Japan Times. While a lot of people stay in the English teaching ghetto and judge their years here by the numbers of hang-overs and non-solo orgasms, it's not so hard to break out of that, to say here I am, this is me, I can do what I say I can. Row just got a job in a good cocktail bar. Why? Because he said he could learn. When was the last time that being keen and ready to learn got anyone a job in Australia? It's the old circle of experience needed to get experience. Not so here. If you can talk the talk, you can walk the walk.

According to D, my dubious Colombian-Italian connection (not the most reliable source, admittedly), there are more than a few African-Americans in Japan who were scraping by in the States playing music; they came here, became exotic (in a good way this time, not as cheeky darkies or slave labour) and now pull in hefty paychecks playing in hostess bars. From what I've seen, I'd say it appears true. While Japanese business culture is rather conformist, and effectively so, foreigners can operate on the margins of society and make a decent living doing so. Last night, I met a Canadian car-exporter who wormed his way into the closed shop of car-auctions here and now ships them to other countries for a hefty mark-up; then there's the American who puts on parties in clubs; the Israeli drug dealers, the Filipino/Ukrainian hostesses, the South American pretty-boys living off rich Japanese yakuza women. If I can just figger out how to work the system, I'll be set. Last week, I met a German woman brought up in an Indian commune who worked in a Taiwanese kindie for two years to earn the hard cash to buy a large slice of land in India and build herself a pottery studio. Anything is possible here.

Well, it's been a strange couple of weeks. Last week, I was kinda unhappy with how Kiyono and I were working out. She didn't seem to give too much of a shit, and we weren't having so much fun together. While there is little point in promising undying love when I have a plane ticket which says otherwise, I was homesick and wanting to be reassured that Japan could be a kind of home too. I kept wondering whether I was just a rebound boy, a mender, a stopgap measure. This disatisfaction coincided with the return of N, the girl I dated before Kiyono. She returned from her exile in Kyushu bright and happy to be back in Osaka, we talked using her perfect English and she told me that I didn't look Australian anymore and I asked what I was instead and she said Japanese, that I seemed at home here, far from the poverty-stricken waif I once was. Apparently my nose has bowed to societal pressure and compressed itself neatly. Then she gave me shit about my cooking again (exasperated, I asked her what it was I was doing in the kitchen if not cooking and she thought seriously about it and said 'warming food') and I teased her about her never-ending supply of suitors and I strongly contemplated jumping ship. Seeing Kiyono has made me realise how essential a shared culture is; the unspoken base of understanding, a system that you both operate in. N had lived in Australia for quite a while and so we could understand each other. And the fact that we could tease each other is vital, part of the time-honoured tradition of dating in Australia. I get a disturbing thrill everytime I talk to J at work and we can lapse into 'Strayan - giving each other shit at high speed, a harmless variant on tall-poppy which I've realised I actually need. It's harder to give shit to Americans and Japanese - they're such earnest people. As a side note, our fellow workers say they can't understand us when J and I talk, but only when we slow down and drop back into streamlined global English. I find this quite flattering. We've got something going on in Australia! We've got a culture all our own!

Anyhow, back to the minidrama at hand. I sent Kiyono a message asking why we hadn't been having much fun together of late and whether something Was Up, in the hope that something would be Up which would make parting easier. But she claimed nothing was unusual and when we met last Friday night and she met Jeremy (the equivalent of meeting the parents here, I suppose - meeting each others friends) and they got on well and a strange girl stalked us into the restaurant after following us a long way from the station and the waiter asked if we wanted a table for four and we said no, three, three only please and the mystery remained unsolved and we ate well and performed as a cute couple for Jeremy's benefit and it was natural and flowed well and she was affectionate and so was I and Jeremy asked for cheese on his okonomiyaki, an Osakan specialty which looks like a deflowered omelette and the waiter said we don't have cheese and Jeremy pointed to the menu, in particular the bit which said "Extra Cheezu" and the waiter said yes but that's for other dishes and Jeremy wondered why it couldn't be simply placed on his meal too and the waiter claimed that this was impossible and Jeremy got mildly shitty and darted off to the local konbeeni and came back with cheese and rather ostentatiously lathered his okonomiyaki in cheese. Then we caught the last train to Kobe and a drunken man gave me the thumbs up for bagging Kiyono and (in case I hadn't got the message) tapped on the window as he left the train and gave me the thumbs up again and I felt vaguely awkward with so many eyes upon the Mixed Couple, on the one-man gaijin raiding party stealing their wimmin. Then we met up with T and F, who had sequestered themselves in a room for the past three weeks in an attempt to make a baby and F's period was thirteen days late and she was hoping hard that her sperm donor had done his work, and we found a karaoke joint and sang until our voices were hoarse and I thoroughly enjoyed singing Oasis and Coldplay and Radiohead and other bands that require Soaring Voices, and I watched Kiyono sing her heart out, dancing before the screen and attendants scurried with cheap drinks and before long it was morning and late morning we collapsed into bed and slept for a long time and woke up together. Monday I saw her again, this time with presents and we talked properly for the first time, about previous loves and lovers, about sex and love and life as best we could in her English and my Nihongo, with hands and enthusiasm and the rift was patched and mended.


When I need comfort; when I need to be on the inside of a couple looking out at the world, when I need this sometimes I let sex guide love, I find a lover in the hope that love will follow once sex has paved the way. I think Kiyono has been like this for me and I for her, that once the habit of our bodies merging is established the emotion will follow close behind and I think perhaps this is happening now.


I never know what to think about previous boyfriends. Is it better to be a step-up, or a step-down? If I'm an improvement on the last, it means I don't have to try to hard to be special, just better than the last prick. If I'm a step back, if the former boyfriend was Long Term and Special and Made Music or emanated energy out of his ears, then I have to try a lot harder. I suspect this time there's a bit of both. A side story to illustrate:

The washing of the socks
This week, Kiyono washed my socks. She washed my freaking socks. My previous significant others (not many) never, ever performed chores for me. Unless you count sex, I suppose, but it's polite to lie about that. But! I arrived in wet socks and she whisked them off to the bathroom and washed them while I wrung my hands and paced uselessly and awkwardly behind her and called her my okaasan (mother) in desperation, to make her stop serving me but to no avail. I'm just not used to this. From all accounts, her previous boyfriend was of the table-thumping where's-my-dinner-type, a domestic hindrance who didn't make up the balance with his paycheck. On the upside, they were in love, which as far as I know we aren't, yet.

I'm thinking back over my rather short and poorly-conceived love life, and disturbingly, this is perhaps the closest I've come to the conventional idea of a girlfriend. My token long-term girlfriend was nothing like this, although I suppose we did receive a single invite to parties, which signifies we looked good from the outside. (When I meet her now, we're so different that I wonder why and how on earth we ever lasted two years. I wish I could claim the time on tax). After that, I embarked upon another poorly-thought out relationship which resulted in much pain and little gain; then a lover who I treated rather badly in retrospect (sorry, L) and then a girl from England who left for home and now Kiyono who washes my socks and plays with my hair; who takes me out drinking and teaches me her language patiently. In the past, it was damn rare for me to go out and get shitfaced with a gf/lover. But Kiyono and I are in some way made possible by alcohol. Shochu is our sponsor and staggering home is much better done in company.


She told me a little more about her work, her seperate life. I already knew she had to dress up as a schoolgirl and fawn over lonely businessmen; I knew she had a seperate name she used at work and a seperate phone. What I didn't know was that she plays the role of a kind of outsourced girlfriend-to-many; she has to message her customers once a day or at least several times a weeks. How are you? What have you been doing? Some get shitty if she doesn't respond quickly enough, and they often get jealous of each other, especially if one seems to be monopolising her attentions. Twice in the last couple of months, one of her customers has got fresh/nasty with her and each time she's thrown her beer in his face. That's my girl.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Stray thought

When I was volunteering as a telephone counselor last year, I thought it would make me, y'know, more in touch with the Plight of Humanity and the Human Condition and help me be more sympathetic to my fellow man/woman/child.

Surprisingly, it had a rather different effect. The experience did make me much more sympathetic to those who can't choose their own misery - schizophrenics (why was she born with brain chemicals different to mine? just because evolution likes minor differences?) or the sick or the poor, but most people, I found, find their own perfect level of unhappiness and stay there. They seek it out.

And then they complain about it, when they've gone to all this effort to manufacture a little private hell. It's like saying, look, here, look at this beautiful field of unhappiness. Face it, we have to be unhappy. It's what makes us happy. It used to shit me to tears when I offered a carefully worded possibility for change only to have it dismissed in two words - I did this up to ten times in a single session. Then I realised that a lot of people don't want to change their unhappiness. They just want to tell people about it. So change is not what they want, they want sympathy. But sympathy is a commodity in short supply.

It's similar to the way that everyone rises to their perfect level of incompetence at work. If you haven't got problems, you've got a problem, after all.


The pictures below are of my very first shopping excursion. Finally, and at last, I was paid. It has been a joyful, joyful time. The day before Row and I got paid, we nearly didn't have enough money to get home - down to our last 10 yen for the train ticket - and that was after frantically retrieving my bond money from Melbourne.

So! We went shopping and it was a thing of joy. The shop was edgy (they had a token swastika badge for sale) and 70's Japanese punk blared from the speakers and the assistant had blazing red hair and if it had been at home, he would have given me a dose of attitude but this is Japan, people are enthusiastic, and he was so delighted that we were there that he gave us a discount and took a picture of us with our purchases for the website. Row and I decided we had to try and be over-the-top too and so I wrapped my new belt round my neck and Row dragged on it which made for a gruesome, brotherly sado-masochistic photo. The belt I bought is a rather colourful carved leather belt which makes me look like the Sundance Kid. Over-the-top cowboy chic is so, so in right now. The hottest boys wear up to ten huge, studded leather pouches hanging off their belts, with ridiculously large cowboy boots, and they wear this stuff without flinching. I also bought a blue tshirt which says (beneath a picture of clasped hands and a cross) that "Our God is an Awesome God". I love it.

I also found an astonishing t-shirt - see the picture below. I don't know what to make of it. Are they apologizing for the dawn raid, or the film?


From a wonderful, wonderful TV show called Downtown

And one rather unusual shirt

And his hip, hip shop with hats and shirts...

A dashing young shop-assistant

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Joy of the Internet, The

Google ads often feature the most bizarre websites. Some are so good I had to share them:

Single? Gloomy? Gothic? Try

Do you live the Gothic lifestyle? Does the Gothic community intrigue you? We were specifically set up to help those in the Gothic lifestyle find each other. Whether in your local community or around the world. Everyone wants to be accepted for who they are and what they believe in, many times we are judged by the way we look, the way we dress. GothicMatch allows you to find those who look and identify with who you are!

Don't give me that pap, goth-nerds. Everyone knows you want to be hated and distrusted and that you tally the number of disapproving looks each day. And now, you can gather more social opprobium by doing it in pairs. And have suicide-love pacts too! And listen to The Cure together! And be mournful, with someone who understands and can be mournful too.

It seems specialty dating sites are booming.

Ever been burned by online adult dating services? We don't blame you for being wary of all those free dating sites out there. If you believe in the time-honored principles of honesty, integrity and family and appreciate country music and what it stands for then can offer a safe and secure environment for meeting like-minded people ... Our adult dating services aim to promote interaction among single adults who are not scared of commitment and seek real family values. is dedicated to bringing together nice people, people who know how to act with kindness and maturity. There are so many free dating sites where guys pretend to be single, or married women just log on to seek friendship - all because they are lonely. We expect our members to be totally honest about their identity when they approach us for country personals. There are some ground rules for you to obey if you want access to this unique community, and we'll verify your credentials!! We capture all members' unique IP addresses each time they log in. We verify email addresses. We require credit card verification to ensure our members are over 18 and live where they say they live.

The majority of our members are drawn to today's country music - artists like Alan Jackson, Faith Hill, Martina McBride and Rascal Flatts. Country music speaks to your heart. You relate to the lyrics, you appreciate the values, and the sexuality and romance make your heart pound. Country personals can help form lasting relationships with down-to-earth people with common interests, backgrounds and values.

And when you break up, you can enjoy country music even more as you sit on your porch, shotgun in hand. Did you know that towns with dedicated country music stations have higher suicide rates? If that don't faze you, is for you!

But as specialty dating services take off, the run-of-the-mill dating services have to keep up. So, welcome to - the "Online Dating Profile Makeover Experts"

With over 40 million online personal profiles on the internet today, your ad needs to stand out. It needs to be amazing! However, equally as important, your ad needs to articulate who you are and what you're looking for. Not only do you want to stop people in their tracks, you must stop the right people in their tracks. It doesn't help you to get dozen of email messages from the wrong type of people, does it? At we've put together an amazing team of Photoshop gurus who will take your photograph, apply the correct color balance, tone, sharpness and crop it to amazing perfection. Even if you have a favorite photo with your ex, we can professionally remove them and, in most cases, any existence they were ever in the photo! Yes, we're that good! We didn't stop there. When it comes to your essay questions, we have an amazing team of English majors who also love poetry. After a short 45 minute phone consultation, they'll go to work to write up your profile that will not only stop people in their tracks, it will stop the right people, and send the wrong matches running for the hills! Simply amazing wouldn't you say!

Well, I'd say simply amazing. I mean, they can use Photoshop, for god's sake. And if their crack team of trained monkeys can produce gems like this sample ad, where do I sign up?

My ideal picnic is a basket filled with fruits, assorted cheese, crackers, wine and a chess board! I love a great game of chess, and there is nothing better than a picnic at the park, overlooking the beach with a great bottle of wine, cheese and a guy who knows his way around a chess board! Are you up for the challenge? I've focused on my career, have a great family and hang with the best circle of friends, now I just need to find my perfect "Average Joe". Are you him?

I really, really hope not, Cindy6. I wonder if would stoop to airbrushing and tweaking your picture if you slipped them a couple of extra bucks? It's a fine line between removing your ex from a photo and getting a quick digital nose job along the way.

And for my last trick, here is a non-dating site which appeals to the unreconstructed Neanderthal. Welcome, TopSecretTraining!

Are these high-level combat skills too powerful for the public? God no. Even though Congress tried to ban this 'Murder-by-Number' system, here it is, on the web, in lurid black and red. 'Murder-by-Number' is never really explained, but I'm sure it's more impressively lethal than festooning your victim in numerals and killing them with ink poisoning.

I love sites like this. Here's his intro:

From: Lieutenant X, Former Military Intelligence Officer, US Army Special Forces

Dear Friend,

Would you like to be an instantly awesome hand-to-hand combat machine, learning to quickly kick the snot out of even the biggest, meanest, and most well-trained fighters you would ever come up against- the same exact way as our nation's top CIA operatives do? Would you like to be able to humiliate anyone who ever messes with you in public? By using the same accelerated learning methods as the Secret Service, you could take them out in your first move so hard and so fast that they never even know what hit them. How would you like to be able to master any fighting style or martial art in only 3 weeks, instead of 30 years・nd be fully qualified to teach it to others- just like our Green Berets train foreign freedom fighters? You would? Good. Then I'm talking to the right person.

But things weren't so easy for Lieutenant X, poor fellow. No, somehow Washington got wind of it

I don't know where it started, but a slanderous smear campaign labeling A.B.C. as the Murder by numbers system got back to Washington. Our easily swayed government officials were quickly convinced that Accelerated Battlefield Combatives simply makes people too dangerous, too fast ... We were disbanded, and A.B.C. was safely locked away. Or so they thought.

Cue ominous music.

There is much, much more to my story, including what happened after the hearings, how Colonel K. and I were asked to leave the Army, how I fought the U.S. government for possession of our training methods, how we wound up training Private Military Corporations (mercenaries), and even why I must call myself Lt. X and hide my true identity. But now the time has come for you to make a decision. Are you ready to take the next evolutionary step in hand-to-hand combat training? Are you ready to become a living, breathing, hand-to-hand combat machine?

Yes! Yes! I'm sick of being a wimp who can't attract girls because I've never humiliated and killed a man.

Your will learn [sic - spelling is optional when you are a Killing Machine]
-Incredible military tricks・that will take you from absolute rookie to a master of hand-to-hand combat in just a few short hours!
-Insider fighting secrets that only the most elite soldiers who have faced real combat could ever share with you!
-The guaranteed, easiest, most effortless way to toss ANY man right on his head...and break his arm on the way down if you choose to do so!
-How to snatch a loaded gun right out of a "Gangsta's" hand so damn fast it will literally tear his trigger finger off! (and then how to cave his chest in without skipping a beat)

Oh, god. This will change my life. This will change my life.


Monday, May 16, 2005

The currency of train seats

Catching trains in Japan is a refined world unto itself, complete with rules and tricks. It's not enough to simply turn up to the station five minutes before your train leaves. No, you need to work out which carriage is best so that when you get there, you burst out of your (carefully selected) train door and beat the stairway crush to your connecting train. People line up behind coloured signs on the station floor, and then split into two lines when the train arrives, allowing people to flow smoothly down the gap and out - that's fine, if you know enough kanji to understand which colour means an express train door and which means a local. You have to plan out your entire train trip in advance. Since I didn't know any of this, I've been trying to tweak my daily routine. So. This is the best I can do so far: Hirakatashi, 7.15am - orange sign for express, not green. Second carriage, third door. Yodoyobashi, 7.55am - connect to Midosuji subway, take second carriage, second door. Umeda, 8.12, Hankyu Railway - third or fourth carriage (seats available) but not sure yet as to which is the best. Nishinomiya-Kitaguchi, 8.32 - burst forth from the door and join the rush to make the 8.33 connecting train. Any carriage, any door.

So after all that planning and positioning, it's a wondrous thing to have a seat in rush hour. The actual physical relief of sitting down is augmented one thousand-fold as you watch strangers become unwillingly intimate a metre away. For me, the currency of train seats fluctuates daily, according to mood. Sometimes I like the pulse of muffled tolerance, saturated by briefcases and suits. If you have a seat, you give it up reluctantly, and only to those who really, really deserve it. I've done it perhaps twice, for a woman who looked rather ill, and an old woman. But salarymen? Please. I know they resent me. I know they resent the first-in-best-dressed system that doesn't respect authority and age and salary increments. But buddy, I got this seat and I am going to enjoy it. Just watch me.

When the doors open, people flood in, frantically seeking places for bottoms. It's polite Darwinism - the losers sit quietly, biding their time, moving closer and closer to seated people who show imminent signs of departure.

I'm not exaggerating. There is a new book (in Japanese) which is called something like "How to get a seat on the Tokyo subway: tips and tricks". I can't find a link, but it's real, I promise.
Wot my Mum thinks

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about trying to absolve myself of 'should', concluding that "should is the influence of other people, should is a nasty, nasty word and that 'should' is unhappiness." I've never quoted myself before. It feels good, I can tell you. Anyhow, I sent this post to my mother, because she knows I blog but I've never had the guts/foolhardiness to tell her, out of fear (the Christianity she tried very hard to instill has now entirely lapsed, or collapsed, into mindless hedonism), embarassment (he has sex? he's a bitch?) and, well, more fear, probably of being disowned. So, I selected a post which I thought would pass muster and she emailed me this back and I thought it was inneresting so here it is:

Isn't the erasure of "should" simply a formula for hedonism, egocentricity and, eventually, personal and societal anarchy? To many of the post Vietnam generation (alias your contemporaries) there is a real sense of a need to break away from history, because you have been fed the theory that history and tradition are stifling and irrelevant. They purportedly censure individuality, and disallow personal, unfettered exploration and fruition. But I see this as a very limited, introverted perception. If you then do all the things that your impulses require - love wildly, give up work, get drunk, do drugs and so on - what is the end product, and what is achieved? And who is affected? We are a group animal, not an isolate. Even if we choose ideological isolation, our actions disprove the theory, because all words and actions have an effect on those around us - in both a physical and metaphysical way. I think it is far more beneficial to look at "shoulds" dispassionately, and value them for what they are - a framework for the function of society (show me any healthy society in which no-one works), and an essential moral code that sustains and vitalises our fellow man. Perhaps, when you ran up the escalator in wild abandon ( and it's great fun, I might add - yeh, I was young once) that you may have been judging the old people in suits as much as they were you. Our whole purpose in life is to love those around us (not lust, I hasten to add) and the bottom line of this is respect

What this shows is that a) I should probably have sent her another post and b) my mum is smarter than your mum.

No, she makes some good points, from One Generation to Another. I agree that removing 'should' is indeed a recipe for disaster, but only on a societal scale. But here we see the essence of our difference - she has an end point to look forward to, the earnt promise of eternal life, whereas I have nothing but the void, the oblivion of sleep without dreams. Ah, I should quit the melodramatics. Who am I kidding? Once death starts to take real form, once I age and start feeling old, I'll be begging God to forgive me my transgressions, youthful and otherwise.


God, I don't understand life. You start out as clones of your parents, aping and idolising them only to rebel and cast off all of their ways and methods of thinking when hormones and self kick in, before realising that somewhere along the line you have BECOME your mother or father. Usually after you hit 40 and have Kids of Your Own.


Yesterday, I was thinking that there is a great tragedy pervading contemporary Western society. (God, I love it when I have thoughts that start like that). Our heightened levels of individualism - a feature not particularly common in historical societies - came about because individualism was harnessed to Christianity. But now that we live in what has been trumpeted as the "Post-Christian Society" (well, by lefties in New York and London who don't get out to the 'burbs, anyway), the hold of Christianity is falling away, and with it the promise of eternal salvation. Historically, Christian societies believed that salvation was a personal matter, that life was a maze of choice which if navigated correctly would lead you, the individual, the creature made in the image of the creator, to the Pearly Gates when at last your earthly toil was over. Now, Christian salvation has passed most of us by, but we're left with a reminder, our strong individualism which required individual salvation to justify it. What salvation is left? There are many smaller salvations vying to fill the vacuum; the false promise of permanent youth, psychobabble head-tweaking (from doormat to Assertive Do-er in 30 days or less!), the distractions of movies/TV/pop culture, escapes from reality which lessen the reality of the final escape; a transformation in our thinking from earning an unending blissful now after the toil of the present (what was the bliss of Heaven meant to be like, anyhow? Was it better than sex?) to exploring a succession of unending now's, a now without end, Amen.


If you take one bunch of gaijin who work together and place them in a bar and add shochu and water and lemon and ice and the freedom that comes with not being at home and mix well after a hard week of child-taming, you create an atmosphere conducive to a rather indecent exposure of their past, present and future. It's happened twice now, so it's no fluke - it's the kind of bonding that was meant to happen on school camps; you know, you come back laughing and red and muddy and full of Shared Experiences and then the next Monday you hate the jocks again. Anyway, it's a purer form here because we's a-got no homes to go to and we got real bosses to bitch about, not class sluts and studs. So when the kindie workers get together, it's explosive disclosure, as if we can't even wait to get drunk to spill our guts to people who were strangers but a short time ago.

On Thursday night, we went to our local local bar (as in, it's near work, and it's very, very, much a local bar) and we drank a large amount of alcohol and offended many old salarymen and this is what came out.

So! From T came confessions of feeling shaky and shitty if he went a day without a drink and having this become a round-table discussion on the merits of alcoholism and we settled on the trusty fallback position of if it doesn't affect your everyday life than it's ok and T said yes I know but it used to affect me, back when my friend and drinking partner and general bad influence got me drunk and high on coke most nights and then coming down the next day we would duck off to the toilets at the kindergarten and snort more coke off H's keys and bring on the upswing and thrill through the rest of the day and we were shocked, honestly shocked - a kindergarten! a bastion of innocence! - and then the demand for candour increased and Jeremy started a new thread of conversation which quickly took the table over and he mused on the difficulties of Japanese condoms, in particular the fact that they were, well, much too tight and I thought this time he's gone too far, because one of us worked in the office, ethnic-Japanese who lived in England and was trying to navigate both cultures and this was probably a Bit Much and the boys gasped and wondered whether we had offended our fellow co-workers who were, you know, girls, and apparently sweet girls at that but then she blinked and said nothing and the sweet-as-sugar G counterpunched with a dubious sexual pun about her new Jamaican boyfriend (or her hot dose of manmeat, as she has dubbed him) and floored us all. Later, drunk on the train, someone confessed to losing their virginity just last week, late night in a karaoke booth and this feat was impossible, impossible to top.

My god.

It's spring in Osaka, and the sun is warm on my face as I lean against a pillar at Kiyono's station, waiting for my train. I hear something and ignore it - can't be bothered trying to understand Nihongo all the time. Then I hear it again. It sounds like English. In fact, it is English. Someone nearby me is saying 'alien' quite clearly. I look around and spot a group of young guys, half-grinning, half-scowling at me. I look at them. They look back at me, insouciant. I stare at them. They stare back at me and say alien, alien, alien, just to make their point. I stare for a while longer, and then decide not to say anything because my quick temper has nearly gotten me killed at least once before. Even though I really, really want to. Alien? Alien?? Aliens are small and green and lethal and force the world to unite against them. Fuck me. I thought one of the benefits of being Western was an immunity to racism. Don't you want to be me, not hate me? The Japanese army nearly worked my grandfather to death in the slave camps of Burma 60 years ago but he survived and I'm alive as a result. Alien, indeed.

I got angrier as the train refused to arrive, leaving me next to the idiots, still grinning at me with fixed faces and daring me to Make Something Of It. Fucking bogans. Bogans are the same around the world, no matter what the language. Man. I thought one of the blessings of globalisation was that the underclass was being outsourced to India, leaving stupid and aggressive former-blue collar Westerners to die out. Maybe next generation. (Ouch. Snob-by)

As always, I thought up a variety of childish comebacks well after the event. This proved difficult, given my basic grasp of Japanese and the relative dearth of expletives in this polite culture, but I worked at it and if it happens tomorrow, I have these sentences ready in my arsenal:

- Nan desu ka, baka? (What is it, idiot?)
- Hai, kuso atama? (Yes, shit-head?). I'm not sure if that translates but I'm sure they'd understand and subsequently kill me.

After my initial burst of anger subsided, I had another blinding flash of inspiration. The perfect opportunity, once in a lifetime, to say 'Take me to your leader'. The joke may not translate though, what with the intergalactic gulf between us and all.


Sunday, May 15, 2005

Terrible twos

Age known as `terrible twos' can be seen as time of growing up
Copyright 1997 Houston Chronicle

They say "No" when they mean "Yes." They want control. They eat on the run.

All of a sudden, they are mobile creatures; 2-year-olds have the whole world to explore. And they want to do it now.

"All this time they weren't able to, but now they can walk, talk and feed themselves," says Donna Legro, a lecturer at the University of Houston. "They push the parent away because they want to do it themselves."

Frequently termed "the terrible twos," this age is punctuated by temper tantrums and aggression, and marked by repetition -- the same story every night, the same path up and down the stairs, the same food, the same thing to wear every day.

To this, you could add:
- A strong desire to break away from the tyranny of artistic constraints imposed from above. You want me to draw between the lines on this piece of paper? How boring. I want to draw on the walls and floors and tables and other children.
- A growing interest in causality. If I stand on this chair I can see. If I stand on the table, so does everyone else and I get attention from frantic teachers. If I hit the same red-haired teacher on the head with a brick/doll/bowl every five minutes, I get attention. If I tip the contents of my tea into my lunch, I make soup
- Glue is for eating.
- Thomas the Tank Engine doesn't interest me anymore.
- I went to the toilet five minutes ago? I want to go again! Look, I shat myself wilfully because I like it.

This week has been hell at work. Overnight, my kids have changed from angelic, nervous little creatures to shouting, screaming terrors, shambling little monsters with a penchant for destruction and loud noise and a total and utter reluctance to accept authority. They've discovered anarchy; they don't want to accept this system of top down control. They don't care that this colour is green and this one red; they care about wilful injury and irritation.

They are driving me completely nuts. All my old child control methods - using a voice louder than them to draw attention; promising treats; promising stories/songs/food, threats of starvation during lunchtime - have lessening influence. It's craziness. Our classroom is not kidproof; it's laid out on the assumption that these children have already had obedience instilled. I have no idea how to control them. Reason has no jurisdiction here. Emotion means everything to them - curiosity, anger, love. I feel like the much pilloried figure of the high school science teacher, whose mustache whiffles and groans as his blood pressure rises; his attempts at control or generating interest lost in the sea of hormones sitting before him. I'm a useless figure of a man; I caper around the classroom in vain attempts to interest my kiddies in something, anything curriculum related.

So. If you ever worked as a childcare worker or bouncer, please, please, please tell me what to do.
Atama ga ittai/my head hurts

Gah. Dry mouth. Churning insides. What happened last night? Fuck. A gaijin bar? What did it look like? Was it really called The Playpen? Why was I there? Oh, a friend's birthday. I bought him what I thought was an excellent present; a cute lunchbox from the 100 yen shop filled with everything one of the kindie kids brings to school - toothbrush, towel, etc. Maybe he liked it? At some stage he disappeared to the toilet and fortified it against intruders. An Ethiopian bar? Did I miss the last train home? Where's my wallet? Why is there so little money in it? Why, o why is there a picture in my phone of a forlorn piece of nightlife detritus slumped over against a wall? Is he dead? Oh. The gaijin bar was like the famous bar scene from Star Wars. All sizes, shapes and colours. Jamicans brushing up against fat Americans rubbing up against the machismo cultures; South America, Italy, Spain. Someone felt my ass. Twice. Lingering hands. A man. Oh. Then he attempted to fondle one of the girls I came with too. Equal opportunity sleaze. Nice. Ramen noodles at dawn? A Japanese guy leaning over and talking to me in broken English; responding in garbled Nihongo. Feeling proud of communicative abilities. He asked me to a bar for drinks. Why was I suddenly so attractive to men? Kiyono didn't come like she said she would. That's bad. Why did I think a relationship here would be easy? We can't even fucking talk to each other properly. Charades can't convey nuances. I will never be an insider here. Floating lives. I have to piss for the eighth time? How did I get home? Did I really go to my Japanese lesson this morning? Nightlife here is so much more vibrant than Melbourne's. This is a big, big city. I didn't enjoy last night, did I? No, I got drunk to stay awake to make the first train home. Why didn't I go to a karaoke booth and sleep on the cheap? Everyone does it. Maybe I'm drinking too much here. Fuck, I feel like shit. What did I drink? Nepalese rice wine. It tasted similar to how I imagine fermented yak milk would taste. Beer? Free tequila shots from a too-kind Ethiopian barman. Fluent Japanese, I remember that. Nihongo sounds strange coming out of foreign mouths.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Well, I'm cheerier today. Thank you, kind friends for spotting a blatant call for support. I 'preciate it.

I was also Rai's Shoulder of Choice to cry on again today, which helped some too. God, I love my (borrowed) kids. I increasingly resent their mothers when they come to pick them up.


This is probably the best personal ad I've ever read. The man is posting it on various Craigslist sites. I don't quite understand every nuance, but I like his style while doubting its effectiveness.

Listen up, Lucy!

You can't dance with a scary 400 pound gorilla and not expect to come out it with a smashed toe or two. But it's a helluva' dance and this ape would climb the Empire State Building and swat at planes for the right girl.

Leakey is digging under the wrong tree trying to find that 'missing link' between ape and man that thrust him from his four legged pre-consciousness to his near divine two legged sapienhood. It was the four legged creature's chivalrous attempt to get Lucy's attention. He lifted himself off his fours, and handed her a honey ant. Chivalry is the driving force behind evolution. If it weren't for roses and sonnets we'd be still swimming in the primeval ooze.

If I weren't so chivalrous and refined a gentleman, this is what my personal ad would say...

Listen up ladies, you've got a snowballs chance in hell in finding your soulmate comedian through online dating. That takes divine intervention and your selfish life hasn't really been a paradigm of selfless compassion to invoke the Hand of Providence. So you're gonna' have to turn Mother Teresa and pray a lot or you're gonna' have to settle for less than that 6'2", 12" pecker, 6 pack abs, male model good looks, emotionally committed, financially stable, great sense of humor, sensitive man you've been holding out for. Forget about giving him your precious virginity -- you gave that to some loser long ago because you were horny and impatient. You have a better chance of meeting the Easter bunny than this superficial shmuck who was already bagged by his high school sweetheart and commutes from his Long Island starter home to a job he hates and comes home exhausted to a woman he's learning to hate. So settle for this -- and I will put it in the crassest terms:

5'8", a few extra pounds, easy on the eyes, wit and intelligence that can truly take on the best of them, a poetic, soulful creative soul, a tattoo or two, lots of fucking baggage (yes, there was life before you), immaturity, a sense of adventure that's taken him to near one hundred countries, family oriented, spiritual -- not just in easy words but in actual acts of benevolence and self-sacrifice, a genuine belief in God, 2 PhD's ABD (All But Dissertation -- who has fucking time to finish
these things), MA, MBMgmt, loads of awards, moments or sheer genius and absolute stupidity, strength -- physical and of character, and here's the kicker that will leave you breathless: an average income of $XXX,XXX a year. I think I finally got your attention ladies, because escort or prima donna, girl next door or dominatrix, gold-digger or heart of gold, we're all interested in security. Despite our promising careers we all want to be taken care of like daddy used to take care of us. So secure in the knowledge that I can Dolce & Gabbana your asses from here to eternity, take you anywhere in the world on a whim, stay in 5 star hotels, eat in ZAGAT's top restaurants, get you a fucking maid so you never have to clean or do laundry, get you a personal trainer to keep you looking great, and when gravity takes its toll, pay for botox, lipo, face lifts, implants, eye jobs, ectoscopic forehead lifts and whatever the fuck you need to look good forever. That fantasy shmuck of yours can't do that. Ever. And one more thing, I will worship the ground you walk on. And bring you fulfillment.

The rest is here


If he sounds like the man of your dreams, why not email him:

Monday, May 09, 2005


With my sudden depression has come a nice accompaniment of self-loathing. In particular, this blog. God, almighty. Do I really come across as semi-racist? I admire so many things about the Japanese culture but all I seem to do is criticise and carp and make stupid suggestions and snide remarks and hint at how much more sorted out Australia is. I'm attempting to be jaded already? Fuck, I don't know why I'm here. Because I didn't want a Career? It's a much harder thing to get than to avoid. And what am I doing blogging about Kiyono? Stupid. Pathetic, even. It just makes her part of the Japan Experience. I'm no better than any other fuckhead gaijin. And, many of my past posts were - in retrospect - completely, and utterly uninteresting lists of Things I Spent My Hours Doing, the cardinal sin committed ad nauseum by all bad blogs. This is only marginally better than the LiveJournal of a 13 year old. I'm an idiot, and not an especially good writer to boot. And! Being a bad writer makes me a bad thinker, or worse, a banal one who turns his acquaintances and lovers into fodder. There. That should do it. Full disclosure: I suck.

This is the part where I secretly long for you to rush in and bolster my self-confidence, but I don't want bolstering, I'd prefer unvarnished truth, so I've turned off comments for this post.

I'm a bit low today. Perhaps the lowest since I arrived. It descended on me without any real warning on the train, a minature existential crisis. I'm homesick, for the first real time. I miss Melbourne. I miss my family and friends. I wanted to see Kiyono tonight, to be able to hold someone but she was busy. God, it's hard to get any kind of traction here. I feel like a first generation migrant - alien, unwanted, on the margins.


Sunday, May 08, 2005

Suits/Nihongo/Should/the real generation gap

When I see men in suits I'm always amazed at the inhumanity of their clothing. Do they ever have itchy asses? Sore legs? Do they long to adjust their underwear? What do they do if they want to scratch in front of the boss? Do they heroically repress the urge to urinate when the urge hits them in meetings? The life of the body doesn't seem possible in a suit. Men in suits are faces and hands, mind and doing, with the rest of the body - associated with premodernism and blue collar work - walled away and sheathed in dark fabric, the only departure - the tie, the glimpse of shirt - only serving to direct the eye back to the face, the mind.


Learning Japanese while living in Japan is like adjusting a radio very, very, very slowly. Gradually, words become perceptible objects, familiar, instead of pauses amidst a flow of sound. But in terms of expressing myself, I'm like a child. There is a real comfort for me teaching 2-year-olds, because they're about as equipped as I am to deal with Japan. Our vocabularies are on par. It's incredibly frustrating for me, because talking is one of the things I enjoy most in life and there is a thriving, thrumming conversation around me all the time but I am deaf to it, I cannot understand. Seeing Kiyono and hanging out with her non-English-enabled friends is galvanising me as well and I'm starting to sop up Nihongo quicker than I thought possible. But for now I am clumsy, recruiting words to do more than their fair share of work - crude instruments, blunt, with no nuances, no sophistication. I'm starting with needs and working towards wants; starting with necessity and working towards the pleasure of dialogue for its own sake. It's a real thrill, recreating the environment in which I first learned language. Nani kore, I say - what's this? what's this? - and I actually remember more than I think I will. The smallest transactions that I manage are a joy - navigating a mobile phone contract with a smile and a catalogue; informing the taxi driver that I didn't have the cash to get home; declining a bag at a konbeen (convienience store). It's so, so interesting learning Nihongo, because here is a country which is like an alternate ending to the story of modernity - a different evolutionary path; same technology, different culture - and their language is utterly foreign to me. So many times I ask for a word for a concept and there is no equivalent and I wonder what shade of meaning I am communicating when I say it, what people actually hear when the word is said. Row told me yesterday that there are perhaps 4 variants of Nihongo - informal, polite, keigo (ultra-polite company/work speak) and the Nihongo which is only spoken to the Emperor, which reaches new levels of politeness and respect. I'm learning the informal version (I don't meet many businessmen), sans kanji at present but informal is hard enough for me. Still, the thrill of making meaning flow from me to someone else is an amazing, amazing feeling. Language is built to let us bridge the gap of self; I've been walled away from most other people my whole time here, and dismantling that wall is difficult, rewarding work. Learning Nihongo and teaching English is making me reflect on my own language, too - why exactly we structure English the way we do; what, exactly, it means to say 'almost' - on a percentage scale of likelihood, where is it? If I keep one thing from Japan, I want the language, I want access to the culture.


On Friday night, Kiyono's friend, F, said something unexpected. Doug, you always seem peaceful. Why is that, she asked. F's been through a rough patch, so I welcomed the chance to actually talk about it. Sometimes I pretend, I said, and sometimes pretending makes it real. But other times, I am peaceful because I have given up all the 'shoulds' in my life, now that I am in Japan. While talking to F, I realised that it was true - one of those times when you say something and then realise its resonance only afterwards. I have given up 'should'. I should get a career. I should do this. I should improve myself. I should, I should, I should - always, I should do something. Here, I've been able to largely kick the habit. Should? Fuck that. I want, or I need. I want to be with Kiyono. I need to work to buy food and pay rent. I want to get a little drunk. I need food. That's it. F nodded at this (not the interior monologue bit) and agreed, saying always she thought of should, should, should. But should is the influence of other people, should is a nasty, nasty word. 'Should' is unhappiness.


On Friday night, a little drunk, Kiyono, T and F were running up the escalator, darting around middle-aged men and women in sober suits, laughing and weaving and it struck me, looking at the disapproval on the faces of their parents generation - what an injustice, that you work your lives away piously hoping that your children will have a better life than you did, more opportunities, more fun, but then once you achieve that and your kids grow up, flourish, take drugs, love wildly, run up escalators, you resent the little shits for having the gall, the sheer temerity to actually do it and not continue with the cycle of responsibility and Building A Better Future. Fucking little bastards, we are, fucking little bastards.


The Kaleidoscope building at Expo

Rice planting season



Dotomboribashi - neon central

Kiyono's lingering ex-boyfriend has finally moved out, which means I've seen her apartment for the first time. It made me really, really sad for some reason. Perhaps it was the sheer weight and reality of it - before, she was some kind of Cinderella (is that the right fairytale?) who vanished at midnight or 5am with a wave and a smile, the girl who I'd never seen in daylight, nocturnal, drawing in smoke under the neon sun. Now, here she was, pinned down to a place and an apartment and a time, her makeup peeled off, contacts out, glasses on and I nearly didn't recognise her in the daytime, sans hostesswear, nightwear. Day movements; langorous movements, pajamas, the slow passing of a day spent as the afterthought, aftermath of night.

(What a night it was; a cheap yakitori place, a few drinks of shochu, the arrival of T - her best friend, newly revealed as her ex-boyfriend from the time before last, more shochu and suddenly she was drunk in a second, between two breaths and she ran off to vomit and then we staggered outside together and her athsma chose then to strike and she had a terrifying attack. Recovering, the light came back in her eyes, a familiar cheekiness and she was up and running, delighted in life, running twenty metres away from me (chiding, stop! stop!) and casting glances back; her throat would strain and constrict again, breath impossible - no puffer - and then she's up and running again, a delighted child defying her own body to strike her down, impudent, alive. But as we ran and stopped, ran and stopped, all the way back to her house, I wondered at her; there is something deeply, deeply sad about her, and I still have no idea what it is, this abiding world sadness in her eyes, a wistfulness)


There was evidence of her ex-boyfriend in her apartment and she made snippy remarks about him at suitable intervals to mark his passing and favourable remarks about me as welcome and I wondered whether this was possible, whether I wanted to fall in love with someone from another country, learn her language from her, live off her kindness and then leave, at some time, eventually, back to a place where I know far better how to live, where I know the rules, the language, the unspoken society that we contrive. She knows this too - last week, she was torn between her ex and I and there was one moment when we drunkenly talked about it and she said perhaps I love you already but also I still love M and besides he has a three year work visa while you are leaving in a year and I laughed in disbelief and then saw she was serious. I wonder how viable my idea of a lover is here; someone I can love and give myself to in the knowledge that it will end, must end. It makes me sad to realise that although a life here is perfectly possible - I have constructed quite a nice one already - everything I create or do here is for Now Only.

Which is nice, really, considering I think perhaps I came here to live or to learn how I am to die, how to face death, and my life here is a speeded up version of Life - creation, learning, destruction. I've thought about death every day since my brother died, and John Gray's Straw Dogs has stripped away most of the cozy comforts I'd been trying to build about death. Death is paralysing me. I'm not scared of it; it'll happen, I will die. It's the only certainty in life. But what paralyses me is the fact that it makes every single thing I do, or want to do, pale into insignificance. What Gray does with great skill is peel away our illusions, and mine were particularly susceptible. Since I gave up Christianity (tried it; felt nothing; got nothing except a lingering dose of guilt about sex), I've tried to find me a new metanarrative in which to place myself. Lately, I've been trying science - the one area in which I see actual progress. As Gray writes, the political utopias of both Left and Right have been tried and found wanting this century and no one gives a shit anymore about politics. The Enlightenment is well and truly over. We're not rational creatures. We're animals with a capacity for delusion. But here the trouble with science kicks in - as Gray says, if you want to believe in science, take it to the limit and test it out. Dawkins wrote in the Selfish Gene that we're not even animals so much as collections of genes, information flows which want to replicate themselves. Everything else is just an attempt to complicate the uncomplicated.

It's terrifying; but perhaps I will give up the idea that my life is my own and that I control it. Subconsciously, I know I don't. I don't really know why I'm in Japan and I don't care. Decisions have always been scary for me, and I've generally tried to avoid them, by letting life flow over the top of the potential decision points; by rationalising bad decisions after they happen, because as Gray notes, scientifically, this is how decisions occur - unconsciously, with the conscious thought occuring afterwards, to justify the "decision". Whenever I have to make a big decision, I pop my head into full consciousness (a place I don't like particularly much), take a brief look around and duckdive back into my safe place of dreaming. I hate decisions. I hate big pictures. I've seen the big picture, and it is the fact that I will die, you will die, we will all die and every single form of immortality that people have attempted in art, politics, war has failed and that the closest we come to immortality is by having children and letting at least some of our influence continue; genes, environment. The way I prefer to live is more of a flow; it makes me much happier to concede some control, to give up the pretence that I control my life. So much is chance, coincidence and the ease of saying yes.

Freedom is terror; we all understand that, intuitively. Entertainment is big business now because we don't want freedom, we want to be tyrannised, ordered around, have our lives chosen for us. Free choice is terrifying. Newness is terrifying. We all know this but we make a fetish out of choice, we hold it up as the one truth of the rich post-Christian world but it's bullshit. When we buy a product in supermarkets, we do it because we are either familiar with the product or we like the colours/shapes/what it says on the box. There is precious little rationality about choice. The battle over what to label groups who use violence to achieve their aims is interesting - are they freedom fighters or terrorists? Neither; both. They are fighting for freedom, but freedom is terror.

An exciting Expo-dition (sorry)

It's Golden Week here, three national holidays which fortuitously fall on consecutive days, and Row and I took advantage of the break and a friend's kind offer of a bed and a meal to go to the Aichi World Expo in Nagoya. I vaguely remember going to the 1988 Expo in Brisbane - all I can dredge up is a couple of people looking uncomfortably ethnic in traditional Mongolian dress under the Australian sun. I had no real plan to go to the Expo, but Y (a lovely Japanese guy from our hostel) suggested it, as his family lived nearby. But getting there alone nearly killed me; I was doing my best to be young and reckless by kissing Kiyono right up until the last possible moment I could leave to catch the last monorail to catch the last train back to Hirakata to snatch three hours sleep before the first train to Nagoya left around 5 am. Sadly, young and reckless is not so far off young and stupid and I missed the last monorail. This was a bad thing. This was a very bad thing. I couldn't wait till the first train because then I'd miss the connecting one and we had tickets for the Expo on Wednesday. So it was taxi time, a bad, bad time in Japan. If you measure what you spend in hours worked, as I sometimes like to do when wondering whether to buy something, a taxi in Japan is an agonising affair. I'm broke anyhow, as a result of trying to keep up with Kiyono's high life with a scant supply of funds (why isn't childcare and dancing to the Wiggles as valuable as flirting with businessmen? I ask you) and I had about 8000 yen (maybe 90 bucks) to last me until payday, a week away. Yes, taxis in Japan are cool - the back door automatically opens and shuts and the driver wears white gloves. But the driver also dispenses free tissues with which to console oneself as one (one? forgive me) hands over 5000 yen (4 hours of work) for a 15 minute trip home. It was a gripping and horrific experience - I was literally on the edge of my seat, watching my money shrink by the second. Eventually, I realised I wasn't going to make it home, so I attempted some Japanese and told the driver that I didn't have enough money so he should let me out here for (sigh) the long, long walk home through a foreign city. He stopped the taxi, looked at the bedraggled gaijin in his back seat, shook his head and drove me the rest of the way home anyway.

Then I slept a little before catching 9 (nine!) trains to Nagoya in an effort to save cash by using the child ticket method; for once, it failed miserably and we were caught outside the Expo and forced to pay a whopping great wad of cash to meet the real price that Adults who Earn Money have to pay. Fuck me. Not even playing the stupid gaijin card saved us. Then we got into the Expo, discovered that 150,000 other people had the same idea and that the queues for the popular exhibits were at least three kilometres long (I shit you not) and that families had set up encampments in the queues and were busily having lunch/writing their wills/cultivating heatstroke. Row, Y and I decided that popular was out and Central Asia was in, so we enjoyed the delights of the Kazakhstani and Turkmenistani pavilions, both of which seemed to be using the Expo as a means to seek foreign capital (cheap labour! oil! corrupt former Soviet politicians!) and also had the Biggest Rock Salt Crystal in the world, which would look nice in Northern Queensland next to the Big Fucking Banana and the Fucking Enormous Coconut, Cunt. Next, we skulked into the Australian pavilion but were spotted immediately and forced to speak 'Strayan before the staff let us sit down and watch how Australia presents itself to the world. I have to say, it was one of the better pavilions we saw. The room was full of vertical screens which gave a Brief Overview of Oz. There were obligatory shots of kangaroos jumping and multiculturalism (black and white and yellow people reading and listening to music and mowing lawns and Living in Harmony) and the Great Barrier Reef - they know what Japanese tourists like - and sport, of course, but they didn't belabor the point. We're the best in the world. We're the new Aryan race of superhuman superfish but we channel our super-aggression into sport. Get used to us winning. But the show was quick, snappy and sumptously designed and we left feeling a wee bit proud. While an Expo is meant to be an exhibition of nations, the UN in miniature minus bureaucracy, in reality it's a fierce competition.

Anyway, I can't say I enjoyed the Expo much at all, but I did get to see and pet some robots. There were guard robots and nurse robots and receptionist robots and childcare robots (my job is not safe, not safe at all and here I am asking for a raise!) But being Japan, all the robots were rounded and cute, even the guard robots; flashing lights and smooth, pattable curves. The techology is proceeding pretty quickly and it was a little disconcerting when I realised that one of the robots was looking at me - if I moved away, its eye-cameras would track me to my new location.

Sleeplessness, thousands of people and the hot spring sun all contributed to me feeling terrible about my time here. I wanted to quit this place - too hard, too hard - and go back to Australia where the living is easy. Squashed up in an Expo train, my legs were screaming for relief but every time I shifted position, I elicited a grunt from a random piece of flesh nearby.

Then we made it to Y's house, where we were welcomed as family, fed, made a fuss of, introduced to dogs/babies/grandmothers playing the shamisen (Japanese stringed instrument), bedded down, woken with sausage and eggs, shown the family shrine, taken to a pottery exhibition where we made a rice bowl while throngs of rural Japanese goggled at us before having tasteful presents of cups and teapots showered upon us by Y's parents before being driven an hour through wonderous scenery - it's rice planting season here and the farmers toil against a backdrop of mountains clad in spring foliage - to a more convienient city to catch a train, before we were filled with expensive sushi and sent off with a wave. I have never, ever encountered such generosity, such total giving. Our thank-you's and presents of small cakes and a stupid kangaroo keyring were rather inadequate.

It seems as if every touristy thing I do here is mundane and serves only as the pretext that lets me meet people and come into their lives for a little while.


Pome for idiot gaijin

Hey idiot gaijin,
Why waste your time and money procuring an orgasm
Enveloped in someone else's flesh
When it's not so much better than
The orgasms you manage at home, on your own

You can see the type I'm writing about, in their own words:
'The perfect man has a German car, American money, and a Japanese wife'
Here they are, all of them.


Monday, May 02, 2005

Short one

I hope I'm not coming across as being anti-Japan. Reading back over a few of my last posts, I wonder whether I'm sounding sanctimonious. I don't mean to be. I love being here. It's so alive, this culture, pulsing with life in a million permutations.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

It rubs the lotion on its skin...

This deserves to be much better known.