Archive for the ‘jamaica’ Tag

One year later: Thoughts on leaving Japan   Leave a comment

On March 3, 2011, my thoughts were all about evolution and moving forward. It was a clear, bright Friday, and I had taken it upon myself to get my work Visa renewed. In the mid-morning, I met a friend of mine for Coffee. Unlike me, he spoke fluent Japanese, and had very interesting credentials in media and non-profit work.” Mike,” I said to him. “Do you realize that if I had your skills, particularly with language, I’d make something happen? The main barrier for me in one sense is language and then belief that I can make something here.”

Mike, who was knibbling a McDonald’s breakfast meal, sort of nodded his head in agreement. To me, Mike had the main tool that most long term residents in Japan had, an acute appreciation of all things Japanese (good or bad) plus a stellar command of the language.

We chatted about normal things, past relationships, and the future. I had met up with him to pay for a camera he gave me a while back. As I went to the train station to head to the Shinagawa ward office to renew my work Visa, I felt a calm settle over me. This calm was not common—living in Tokyo with no health insurance and low income not withstanding—so I relished it. I felt that I’d spent the better part of two years battling to make it in a foreign country mentally and socially and that I’d essentially try and turn over a new leaf, do new things.

I moved to Tokyo in early 2010 with my savings and after five months of hustle and bustle went back to teaching English at three Japanese Junior high schools to survive. For the next six months, I often dreamed of a day when I could do something else. I label myself a “creative”, and sometimes shouting at Japanese teens and sitting alone at my desk in a staffroom where I rarely interacted with teachers was a bit underwhelming. On some days, if the sky was bright in the sky, I’d look to the horizon and think that in some future, I’d be doing something different. This was the mood on Friday, March third, 2011. I felt that getting my Visa renewed was a step towards something different.

The mood in my apartment building was mum. A body or two floated silently through the hallways, it was quiet, and the slightest hint of cigarette smoke hung in the air by a huge ashtray in the lobby. I popped into my room, flipped open my laptop and proceeded to load an episode of  Dexter. Then, the ground started shaking and I, sipping on a Suntory strong, didn’t take note (because Tokyo had frequent, albeit small earthquakes). Then, as the tremors continued, it dawned on me that “this might be the big one.”

For a split second, I had a flashback to a bar I frequented in Shizuoka, in the city of Hamamatsu where I first lived. Marty, the patron, in his heavy Aussie accent said to me “Yeah man, the big one’s gonna come of these days. They said it was supposed to be like 2004 or 2005, but its definitely gonna hit.”

The ground kept shaking and my mind ran through a series of exercises I remember learning in school.  Stand in a doorway, don’t run outside, get under a desk.

I walked to the open doorway. My roommate, a guy from Korea gave me a frightened look and went outside into the lobby. My next move was illogical—I went to my bed and grabbed my camera—and I started shooting video as I followed him into the lobby. The place was really shaking now, and amazingly I didn’t feel frightened, just clueless. A few people in the lobby sprinted outside. I ended up hanging in there, watching the 55 inch plasma screen threaten to drop on its face, and pictures of Jeremy Irons go clack clack clack clack on the wall. Then it stopped.

Then the second quake hit, and everything started.

Everything as in all the e-mails, CNN reports, people watching Al-Jazeer to through internet streams to get info in English, loss of cell phone calls, , rampant fears of impending doom and worse. I made sure to shoot my parents a calm one line e-mail telling  them I was okay. As time progressed and twitter became a soap box for a million new nuclear radiation experts, the apartment completely changed. Everyone hung out in the lobby, and pretty much everyone was drinking. The reality of the situation, people trying to figure out what safe milivert levels were and all that jazz lead everyone down beer alley. I was mostly fine (the alcohol helped that) but then I remembered I had a friend who lived in Fukushima. In fact, I always joked with her if ever we spoke on the phone, calling it “Fukukukukushima!” to which she’d laugh. Naturally, as I saw the tsunami sweeping away houses and massive tankers in its wake, I got worried. E-mails were taking long to go through and no phones worked.

I stared at the TV screen. That huge, behemoth of an LCD and wondered if I had witnessed the death of a friend on live TV. This was the atmosphere that shifted from a day thinking about the future, to being jet-pilot focused in the present. A few people said they were leaving Tokyo a few hours after the quake. One of them showed me an e-mail from the French embassy talking about flight compensations and the need for safety. Then a few other foreigners in my house talked about stuff their embassies were saying. I almost laughed in this situation, because I was sure that the Jamaican embassy had no idea who I was, nor would they spirit me away with their own money.

After sending like twenty SMS messages to my friend (her name was Mayumi) I realized it was futile and I’d have to wait it out. Day turned into night and people threw back the beers, played party games and tried every trick to chill out. “They say another big quake might hit on Wednesday,” Ed, another roommate said. I nodded as he said that, while eating a plate of Turkish food that a guy upstairs suddenly decided was a top priority to make… for everyone on in the building.

At this point I didn’t know what to think. The earthquake itself for me wasn’t so bad, but pretty much every thirty minutes since the quake happened, there were aftershocks. One day into this, I lost a basic sense of balance and I kept thinking the ground was moving when it wasn’t. Two days in I hadn’t slept much and everyone was on edge. One the third day, I heard from Mayumi. She sounded tired, but okay.

“Thanks for calling,” she said. “My family and I are going to go to Yokohama for a while.”

We chatted for a few more minutes, and in that exact moment, I realized that something else could happen, and I might never see her again. When I said goodbye, I felt very circumspect. My family was rallying heavily for me to come home, and in the midst of a sleepless cascade of beer, mixed news reports about heavy radiation and constant aftershocks, I was on my way home.

The morning before I was supposed to leave, several loud booms sounded somewhere far away, with heavy aftershocks rippling through Tokyo as a result. These didn’t sound or feel like anything earthquake related, and this was the first time fear struck my chest. My friend felt it too, and we left the house. During this time, I also had a very heart-wrenching goodbye conversation with a girl who had my heart, my femme fatale, nestled safely in a city far away.

Broken relationships, drinking, insomnia, loss of property and life, all a few days.

I had left the small city of Hamamatsu with two suitcases and hopes for the future, and now I was leaving Tokyo with one suitcase and a cloud of uncertainty as my carry-on.



I spent five weeks in the states before going back to Jamaica, mostly trying to get used to the idea of returning home and all the trappings that ensue with island life. Back home, I felt blank for several months. The bustling day to day life in a metropolis of thirty six million people is a far cry from the more laid back Kingston life. I struggled constantly with the desire to go back to Japan, particularly because of my femme fatale, but also because I had fought for my time there. I’d fought to overcome culture shock, a massive language barrier and adopt new social norms.

I’d gotten used to running to the Conbini at night to grab snacks or drinks. I’d gotten integrated, even doing photography for Fashion shows, video work at Upscale clubs and a little branding with some Tokyo-based companies. I appreciated the way I could meet new groups of people frequently, and it was hard (and still is) difficult to deal with how people in Kingston “mainly hang with friends from high school” as a pervasive social rule. I went from the city to a huge country club, with a dated membership.

In Japan, I created a web series entitled “Jamaican in Japan”, where you could follow me on adventures to reggae parties, different cities ,the top of Mt. Fuji, you name it.  Jamaican in Japan was to be a portal for anyone who’d never seen Japan to experience it the way I did, in a whirlwind of parties and exotic locations. My initial time in Japan was brutally frustrating, because I, the outgoing, chatty socialite suddenly couldn’t speak the main language, and had less places to go.

When I started the series, I kept myself inspired with the idea that maybe one day I’d be able to create content for TV in Jamaica. Maybe residents could see what I did and be inspired to do more. That would be fun, I thought. At the time I had no idea that what I was producing would eventually be on Jamaican TV. I spoke about this in mid-2011 on the island’s largest morning television show, Smile Jamaica. It was a gargantuan catch-22. There I was, chatting about my experiences about Japan, made possible by a rapid exit from said country.

As time passed, I made contacts with a few local media people, and I even tried to emulate my Jamaican in Japan webisodes, but it didn’t feel the same.  Eventually, After months of debate, I decided to try and get my footage on television, and the first episode of a TV show that compiles my travel videos, No Ticket Needed, aired on January 17th, 2012 on a local station, Flow TV.

As I sat with my family and watched myself on TV partying and gallivanting in Japan, I felt somewhat elated and also a little awkward. I’d always wanted to get my videos on TV, but I didn’t realize it would happen this way. This might sound like massive progress, ( and in  a way it is ) but I feel a dissonance exists between this feeling of achievement relative of how I feel about my day to day life. The mental divide between the party-hard world traveler and the laid back island boy is still a large barrier.

My friends in Japan often ask me when I’m coming back, and I often wonder if I’m going back. The dialogue since my return with people who know me has never been “What are you doing now? “ but it remains “When are you leaving?”

This is the question of my life right now. When am I leaving?

A massive earthquake and threat of radiation made me leave Japan, and like a lot of people, another massive earthquake and the threat of more radiation makes going back feel a bit iffy. But what is life without a little spice? After a year, I think I know what that means all too well.

Pyramids of Giza!   Leave a comment

Here I go to one of the world’s largest and most mysterious wonders, the Giza Pyramids of Egypt! This was definitely one of the most moving parts of my trip and I am happy to share it with the world.


One Love Festival Clip   4 comments

This is a recap video I of the 2010 One Love Festival in Yoyogi park.

Anime Nation Exhibit 2011   Leave a comment

Hey what’s up guys! I’ll be heading over to this event at Studio 38 (Pulse) tomorrow. If you are in Kingston, stop by! I’ll be exhibiting some of my t-shirts and so on! Cheers!

One of my posters below!


Jamaican in Egypt Episode 5   Leave a comment

Please watch my latest episode of Jamaican in Egypt where I go to Karnak temple!


Bonobo Pit Stop   Leave a comment

A lot of people have been saying this is a really cool spot. I passed through on a rainy Wednesday night and snapped a few pics. Will return on a weekend and see what the real deal really is. I liked the decor and the energy of the place.

Japanese TV spot!   Leave a comment

I appeared on Nihon Terebi for two seconds (literally) in a small acting role for a mini-documentary on world-famous Japanese dancehall queen, Junko. Was a good experience! You can watch the entire video on youtube here. (Japanese only). I also attached it below.

Checkout the picture from my previous post about the TV shoot, here.


The Story of Reggae Dancer Junko

Marcus Bird: Jamaican in Japan Halloween Video   Leave a comment

I go to Tokyo, where I see men dressed like women, women dressed like Peter Pan, and Captain America, Barack Obama and the Power Rangers getting jiggy to streetside music, all in Roppongi, Tokyo.

All videos viewable in 720p high definition.

Chinese Prostitutes, Strip Clubs and Jason Schwartzman   Leave a comment

I’m standing on a street in Shibuya, and a small Chinese prostitute is grabbing my arm.

“Do you want massage?” she asked.

“No thanks.” I said.

“Only two thousand yen. Come now, we go to second floor.”

“Seriously I’m good.” I replied.

Beside me, the same thing was happening to Rob. The two ladies were tiny, with intense eyes and relatively cute features. They were very aggressive, but finally we got away.

This is how the night started to wind down in Rippongi.


I’m sitting in a pasta shop somewhere in Shibuya, chatting to a dancer that looks like a perfect ten model. Her name is Jeri,  and she’s in town dancing somewhere in Rippongi. She is easily the hottest woman I’ve met since I’ve been to Tokyo.  She’s very friendly, and chatting to her is a pleasure. She reminds me of a dancer I saw when I went to club Womb a few months prior, but this is her first time in Japan.

“I’m from L.A, but the scene is really good here. I might come back.” She says.

She’s wearing a summer straw hat, a white skirt, and a tank top that reveals her voluptuous figure. She’s tanned and unblemished. Later Rob would tell me she’s mixed with a few things, but he couldn’t remember what exactly.

“I did this show,” she said. “With a  Japanese group called the MANEATERS.”

“Sounds bizarre.” I said with a laugh.

Jeri, Rob and I chat about traveling and our adventures, for a few minutes. “What are you guys doing tonight?” she says. “Maybe Rippongi or here in Shibuya.” Rob says to her. “I’m performing tonight at the Gallery in Rippongi.” She says. “You guys should check it out.”

Jeri was a professional Go-Go dancer.  Initially, Rob was confused.  “Is Go-Go dancing stripping?” he asked.

“No, its not.” She said.

I have to admit, I didn’t really know the difference either. But I was guessing Go-Go dancers were the hot girls who danced on elevated platforms in large clubs all over the world.

I got her number and she left. As she stood up, I was surprised to see how petite she was. She disappeared soon after, as Rob and I talked about what to eat. “Wow, what are the odds of meeting a girl like her randomly like that?” I said.
“I guess that’s  Tokyo for you.” Rob replied with a laugh.

Rob had come to Tokyo on a mission. To see the sights, go to a few museums and eat at a revolving sushi restaurant in Shibuya. We had no idea where it was. To describe Shibuya is to try and describe and endless concert with thousands of fans roaming the streets all the time, every day. Each time I travel to Shibuya, for a few minutes I feel a buzzing in my head. So many people, so many lives and so many things happening at once really aren’t a part of my basic biological makeup I believe. When I’m there, I want to be a hunter-gatherer again, farming in the mountain with a gang of scruffy kids behind me gathering wood.

Rob asks someone where the restaurant is. He is African, and like almost all the West Africans I’ve seen in Tokyo, he works in the area, promoting clubs or bars. He tells us where the restaurant is, a place where all the Sushi costs one hundred and twenty yen. We step in, and Rob squeals with excitement. “We doing it son! Tokyo!”

A man in a chef’s hat points to a sign at the reception area. “You must eat at least seven dishes.” It read. “That’s cool with me.” I said.

We were ushered to a few seats around the back, and as we walked past the crowd a face stood out:  A small guy with a thick head of black hair and a very scruffy beard. I immediately recognized him as Jason Schwartzman, the actor (Rushmore, The Darjeeeling Limited). As we walked to our seat I rested my hand on his shoulder. “Hey man, are you a professional actor?” I said. “Why yes I am.” He replied. “Awesome, I love your work man!” I said while walking away. “Thank you.” He said with a smile.

The sushi at the bar was wicked delicious and I ended eating eight plates. Rob had nine. Beside me, a few feet away, Schwartzman was still hanging out in the restaurant. I went over. I chit-chatted with them for a while about Tokyo. He was in town to check out the opening of “Opening Ceremony”, a large store that has branches in New York and Los Angeles. “It’s opening Sunday. You should check it out, the store is going to be pretty amazing.”

Rob, who was behind me. “Opening Sunday? Is that the name of the store?”

“No.” Jason said with a laughing. “The store is Opening Ceremony and it’s opening on Sunday.”

“Wow, the opening ceremony for Opening Ceremony is on Sunday when it opens.” I said.

We all laughed. Schwartzman was cool, and I snapped some pictures and got a video shout out for my webseries Marcus Bird: Jamaican in Japan . He was there with this wife, designer Brenda Cunningham founder of eco-friendly clothing line, Souvenir. We said our goodbyes and he told me he’d checkout my website. This is one of the moments when I realized I needed a business card. I said peace, and he left the restaurant.


Rob and I are in Gas panic. Blood red lights flood the room and people dance in the shadows. I explained to Rob that I’m a night owl, and that I feed on the night energy of Tokyo. He told me that since there are language barriers and it being a new country, he thought he’d rather see more terrain and sights that necessarily try to chat to women. This opinion changed rapidly when we started clubbing.

Inside GAS PANIC, cute girls were dancing, but it was the music that really set things off. Contemporary hip-hop blasted through speakers I couldn’t see, and the place was jumping. Cute Japanese girls with hair processed to look curly did Atlanta dances like they were born in America. Rob watched with amazement. One girl in particular, in pink overalls really understood the rhythm. I had seen Japanese girls dance before, to reggae and hip-hop, but I could understand Rob’s feelings. This was his first time EVER seeing Japanese people dance like black people.
“It’s sad man.” He said to me.” That these people try so hard to look like us, and so many black people don’t even love themselves.”

I looked at the girls as he said this. One wore an Atlanta cap with hip-hop jeans on. They all had curly hair and sang along to every T.I song that came over the airwaves. But they barely spoke English, if any. It was amazing. We hung out for a little while longer, getting the vibe started. Then we headed to Rippongi.


Tokyo has an endless stream of beautiful women walking the streets. Every minute or two, Rob and I would see women that made us stop, or at least take a peek. He was starting to see what people were talking about in regards to Tokyo.  It’s one thing to see a cute girl every now and then, but in hours we had seen thousands.

We are on the train, and two girls in front of me are looking at my feet and saying something about my shoes. “Big eh? “I say in Japanese. One giggles but pretends not to hear me. She’s been eyeing me since we got on the train in Shibuya. Our stop isn’t far away and it seems the girls aren’t going to our stop. I exit the train terminal and see a face I recognize. It’s a tall, gorgeous woman I met two weeks before. Miki.

I walk over to her and she greets me with a squeal of excitement. Her long, gorgeous arms wrap around me for a moment. I feel her strength. She immediately decides to come with us wherever we are going. We dump our stuff in a locker and head out. Club 911 is the next stop.

In minutes, Rob takes over a little corner near the top bar. Ladies are dancing and smiling, and I’m watching Miki do samba  to a Justin Timberlake song. She is really, really sexy. She sips on a drink and flashes a quiet smile at me every now and then. She’s the kind of woman that I like. Tall and strong, beautiful and fearless on the dance floor. The club is packed, but after a while I start to get antsy. 911 is really small, and in an hour, it starts to turn into a sausage fest. I want Miki to head to a spot called Bar 57 with us, but she says she has to surf in the morning. A little guy hanging beside her and the size of her drink says otherwise to me, but I decide to leave. An older Japanese woman was feeling Rob.

“One more drink, and that’d probably be it.” He said with a laugh.

“Well I’m glad you didn’t have that drink.” I replied with a  smile.

Bar 57 was closing when we reached. It seemed like a hot spot, with expensive drinks, a nice interior and high ceilings. The stragglers were all in designer dresses and high heels. I liked the feel of the place. Maybe next time. We went back to the strip.


We headed back down the strip. Every few feet a young African man would come up to us, offering us exclusive admission to a club or a strip bar. We went to Club 99 near Odeon and went upstairs. Drunk Japanese girls were dancing on the bar top, but like most places in Tokyo, you get ushered towards the bar first. They say free entry, but if you don’t buy a drink you get kicked out. The spot was a bit lame and we headed out.

The prostitutes found us again somehow and kept pleading with us to get a massage. “Jesus Christ.” These women are persistent.” I said. One of them was actually pretty cute, but knowing what her day job was…


We are hanging in front of a bar near the McDonald’s. I’m on my phone, trying to find out where The Rippongi Gallery is to see if I can catch a bit of Jeri’s performance, but none of the Africans on the strip seem to know where it is. It feels like a put on. “Do you see that?” Rob says.

I glance up and the two girls, now about twenty feet away, are looking back at us.

“Should  we talk to them? ” I said.

“You better take one for the team because I’m not.” Robert said.

I saw what he was talking about. Of the two girls, one was blimp-sized. I took at deep sigh and waved for them to come back. They giggled and kept walking, but as they got further away looked back more. Eventually, they returned. They wore matching black and white outfits and wore gray backpacks. A little odd. The bigger one started asking us a range of questions. “You guys kept looking back at us, so we were wondering what was going on.” I said to the larger one. “I’m sorry, my sister here was interested in you, but she doesn’t speak English.”

“Oh?” I replied. “What language does she speak?”

“Greek.” The girl replied.

“Do you need Windex?” Rob said immediately.

The girl gave him a strange look.
“I’m joking, I’m joking. I know that statement was mad ignorant.” Rob said with a laugh. I started laughing too, but it would be an entire day before I remembered that Windex reference came from the hit movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

The girl introduced herself as Athena and her sister as Mina. What was weird about Mina was that she progressively got better at English within minutes of meeting us. Rob made a joke about Atlanta and she laughed. I made a joke that required certain knowledge of American pop humor and bad English grammar and she laughed. Then she started speaking.

“I’m thirty-five.” She said.

We balked.

“Impossible!” I said.

I paused as three tall, leathery Japanese drag queens stormed past. The sisters asked us If we wanted to hang out. I said okay, but I really wasn’t feeling like taking one for the team. We walked towards a bar called Vi-bar, a bar I went to the day before. The girls became quiet, and it felt a little weird. After we stepped inside, a man came to me and asked me what I’m drinking. “One minute.” I said to him. I turned to Rob.

“Dude, you think these girls are hustling us?” I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders. Their accent changes, the weird backpacks, the greek names and everything felt wrong. “Let’s bounce.” Rob said. “Cool.” We headed back out to the madness of Rippongi at four thirty a.m

At the top of the strip, a smooth talking guy named Joe came up to us. He spun a fabulous tale about a strip club where we could drink all we want for thirty bucks and be dazzled and dazed by exotic dancers. I’m not a strip club guy, but the night was going so many places I said, “what the hell.” Rob was in a agreement but we entered under a simple condition. If we didn’t like the spot, we’d leave, if we did we’d have to pay.

We walked back down the strip and stopped at a bar. I laughed. It was the same place the two “greek” girls had taken us to before. This time we went upstairs. A shady looking poster of a naked woman was at the door. We walked in, and it was empty, save a line of strippers standing at attention in a line. It was a weird feeling, coming into the small, empty strip club with all the dancers watching us. One of the strippers was really hot. She had some sort of brazilian look about her. The rest weren’t so appealing. We thanked the staff and left.

Back outside, we walked back to the top of the strip and sat on a road barrier. The streets were still packed, but we knew the night was over. As we waited for the light to change, a pair of small hands grabbed me. It was the prostitute! Rob and I started laughing again. “Sorry, we go now. Back to hotel.” Rob said. We started crossing the street and one of them said, “I come to hotel with you!”

We laughed and turned around.

The night was over.

Jamaican in Japan Episode One   Leave a comment

I had an idea to create a web series called “Jamaican in Japan” a few months before I came to Japan. After several crazy months of culture shock, semi-traveling and buzzed nights, I finally got a camera, Final Cut Pro, and sat down and cranked out my first episode. I tag along with two ladies to a “psychedelic mountain party”, meaning, lots of drinking, building tens, and playing inebriated football in the wee morning hours. Enjoy!