Archive for the ‘jamaica’ Tag

On Tour with Maxi Priest, Part One   1 comment

I first saw Maxi Priest at a celebrity football match in the late nineties. I was in the stands with my parents, on a overcast summer day. I had laughed at the clumsy way the artistes played football, with the crowd roaring each time Beenie man received a pass, or Spragga Benz took a horrible shot at goal. Maxi, like the other artistes, was having fun. In the distance I could see his trademark locks, swaying about like snakes.

In the distance, I saw his trademark locks flashing to and fro like black snakes. As the artistes (Mad Cobra and Spragga Benz were also playing) passed the ball to each other, I laughed at their clumsiness. Maxi got a pass or two, flashing his trademark smile if he was tackled. Something about him glowed like an ember. This, I thought, is star power.

In Tokyo in Augst 2009, I see him again for the second time. I`m walking behind my cousin, performing artiste Karl Zanders, whose stage name is Beniton The Menace. Everyone calls him Benny. A white bus with the Billboard Live in conservative print across its breadth sits idly outside the KOEI Plaza Hotel, in Shinjuku . We are the last to arrive.
“This is my cousin.” Benny starts.
Maxi interrupts him.
“You didn`t have to tell me anything big man!” he says with a laugh.
“From I see the `John Wayne` walk, I know is must your family that!”
I laugh, and so does the rest of the bus. Maxi looks exactly like how i`ve remembered him, a little under average height, his locks streaming from a khaki coloured hat.

The first thing I sense about him is a powerful energy. Some stars are notoriously moody, boring or eloquent. Some look at people they don`t know with disquieted eyes, and others are so gregarious their managers need to monitor people for them. Maxi had a laugh that came from the recesses of his soul. It was pure and exultant, filled with the confidence of a man who`s been doing what he wants to for the majority of his life.
“Yow, check them boots here.” He says to Marvin, his son. “Nice eeh?” He is wearing a pair of black designer boots with a thick white sole. I glance at Marvin. He looks like his father in complexion and height, but has less of the boyish features Maxi still possesses in his late forties. Marvin has quiet eyes, a firm jaw and a slightly muscular build. Once he speaks, I feel the Priest energy flow from him as well, as pure as rain. “Bless.” He says, giving me a firm handshake.

The bus rolls off and Tokyo flies by as the band members chat about a common topic when groups of Jamaicans meet: The state of Jamaican as it relates to violence. I sit and listen to opinions flow back and forth, laughing to myself that even in Tokyo, certain things never change.

At the Billboard event hall, we are greeted by courteous staff who usher us to the artist’s room. It is small but clean, and the band starts to laugh about a joke. Phanso, the drummer on duty for the tour, is chided for saying he will take a week to eat an entire gallon of ice cream. I observe the people in the group. There are mostly band members but a few people like myself tagging along for the ride. One of them who left an impression on me was Akico. She was sitting quietly at the table as conversation roared in Jamaican patois. Her face was strikingly beautiful, and she embodied the term “ageless”. Apparently she had been touring with the band for ten years, which made it even harder for me to discern her age. “I sometimes play piano for the band.” She says with a sly smile. That`s all she told me about her time with the band.

I meet the rest of the band in stages. There`s Steve, the outspoken road manager who keeps everyone tickled with an endless stream of jokes. Taddy is the bassist, tall with thick locks and a quiet demeanour. Goofy is the pianist, nicknamed so for being a constant joker. The first show goes smoothly, and I am impressed by Maxi`s singing ability. I had never seen him perform live, and his stage presence was remarkable. The crowd was a tad shy and conservative, but soon they were standing up and singing along. “Domo arigato gozaimashita!” Maxi says in a perfect Japanese accent, creating a cascade of “oohs” through the crowd. To me, the show flows seamlessly, with Maxi hitting the high notes, all the songs end on cue and they don`t go a minute overtime.
During lunch, Maxi gives instructions to tweak some instruments. “I don’t need the guitar drowning out my voice, do you know?” he says to Steve, while sipping a bottle of water. “It`s like I can`t hear myself speak and I have to bring it up too much.”
His voice has dropped into his English inflection from his London roots, connoting a seriousness I hadn`t felt before.

Then, a large woman in an African print outfit with a small entourage enters the room. She speaks with casual Jamaican aplomb, and chats to Maxi for a few minutes with him before taking pictures. Behind her, a few men with locks and sharp smile and listen to the conversation. Maxi evolves into his Jamaican self, laughing it up for a few minutes with his fans. He smiles, chit-chats and watches them leave. After the door is closed to the artist room he turns to Steve. “Steve, people can`t come in here like that when the band is eating. Let`s not make it happen again.” His voice has that English lilt again; the boss voice.

After the final show two girls have followed us back to the hotel, Americans traveling through Asia. They have an early flight in the morning, and thought partying it up with the band would be a good sendoff. In the hotel room, one looks up a youtube video on my laptop while the other sips a beer. They look a little antsy, because no one is really moving. Benny is doing something down the hall, and I’m trying to find out what to do in this area. They head to Marvin`s room, and soon we are headed out into the nighttime life of Shinjuku.

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*                           *
Benny is a notoriously savvy self-promoter. Every band practice was broadcasted live through his laptop. Within minutes of taking pictures with fans, or being snapped on stage by a photographer, he would post the pictures to twitter. His laptop was as much of a fixture as his trademarked hair styles.
“I call this style the Illusion.” He said to me the next day. “From a distance you think you know what it is, but as you get closer it changes.” The hairstyle is interesting. He has the slightest beginnings of a mohawk, with shaved blade-like patterns encircling his head leaving two small tufts of hair at the back which resemble miniature ponytails. He is a workhorse, doing the Maxi tours as well as his own production work and shows through the states.  He and Marvin get along pretty well, as they are close in age and mindsets. “Marvin!” Benny barks while looking at something on his laptop. Marvin enters the room with the casual swagger of a star. He is wearing a hotel bathrobe and black rubber sandals. “This is Serani on Good morning New York.” We watch the audio as Serani, a popular new Jamaican dancehall artiste sings “No Games”, his hit song from 2008, in a scratchy, cracking voice. Benny smiles and looks at Marvin.”Can you believe ten million people watched that?”

Maxi Priest is one of the most reknown reggae artistes in the world, but if he`s profited heavily from it, it isn`t immediately apparent. His style casual, with baggy designer jeans, relaxed dress shirts and a variety of caps. Whenever I see him he is smiling and laughing so hard he makes a cackling noise. I could see that the people that followed him weren’t necessarily sponging. He had fame and access, and with this came certain perks which I would soon see firsthand.
“You do photography right?” he said to me backstage on the last day in Tokyo. I nodded. I had become the unofficially official photographer of the tour. “I`m trying to remember the name of a camera… it starts with A.” he said.
“A?” I replied. “I’ll need a little more than that to work with.”
“Okay. It’s black with a red dot on the front.” Maxi replied.
I smiled. For about thirty minutes, Marvin and I try to find the camera he`s talking about. Eventually I find it. It’s a Leica. “Well it ends in A!” Maxi says with a smile. This entire time he has been on his cellphone, chatting to someone.  I`m in the back room, and a well dressed man of middle eastern descent in his forties is sitting beside a young Japanese man. He nods to the young man, who writes down the model number and the name as I recite it from my laptop. They soon leave the room, shaking hands with Maxi.
“That camera was on the UB40 tour I did in Australia a few years back.” He says to me with a bright smile. “It took gorgeous pictures man, beautiful. Those pictures from that camera ended up in the booklet of the tour.” I didn’t need a phd from Harvard to know that he was probably getting that camera for free.

On the second night, a fan gave us access to a party she was hosting in Roppongi. We went in four cabs to the party district. Inside, we received glasses of champagne and a hearty welcome from the hosts. It was a small place called Club Odeon, and it was a Pink Party night. Soon, a pole dancer would thrill the crowd with her heroics, as she suspended her body in difficult positions. Maxi and entourage enjoyed the event reasonably well, drinking champagne and chatting to fans. Then, Benny took the mike and the entire party changed.

He started Hellrazor Sounds systems several years ago, when he did parties and events part-time. Before deciding to go full time on his musical career, this was his calling. TheDJ. “My friends always used to wonder why I wasn’t doing music.” He said to me in the hotel before we went to the club. “These were some hard guys too, drug dealers, gangsters, but they didn’t want that for me. When I started doing the sound thing, guys that had been doing it even longer than me gave me this look like “he knows what he’s doing. ”

The crowd was spellbound as he coordinated some mixes with a Japanese DJ, and brought the house down. The club went from a casual party to a frenzy of dancing and cheering. After ten minutes or so, Benny left the microphone, prompting many to ask him to go back. At some point Maxi slipped out of the club back to the hotel, while the other band members partied a little longer.

The next day, after the last Tokyo show ended, I saw Maxi in the dressing room. He was wiping  his face with a dark brown hand towel. I told him it had been a pleasure meeting him, and seeing him in action. He paused for a second and said, “You not coming with us to Osaka?” I smiled and said I might go, but in that moment, my decision had already been made. Later that day, I bought my train ticket to Osaka.

Tank Tops and Braces Kisses   Leave a comment

I’m in the shadows, and I’m kissing a girl with braces.

She’s wearing the cute Japanese summer style I’m accustomed to now: A short-brimmed  hat, shorts that reveal most of her legs, and a cute top. Her name is Ayano, and we met a few minutes before.
Monday nights are generally quiet and chill, ending with a laptop screen filled with porn or a me sleeping.
But this Monday, there were women, video games, and drinking on the street.
I’m idly looking at an empty bottle of whiskey near my laptop. I sigh, thinking of the night before, when I sipped on whiskey and coke while watching the mind-trip of a movie, Knowing.
It’s a Monday evening, and I roll. I’m in my usual gear. Hipster jeans, new balances and a tank top. Tank tops here are a necessity. Living in a coastal city in Japan is like living in a wet blanket. I can’t imagine wearing a long sleeve shirt in the summertime here.
Monday nights sometimes finds me at Eigo Mora (English Village) where I engage in conversation with Japanese people who pay about ten dollars every Monday to practice their English with foreigners. I like the experience, and I try to speak to a few different people every week.
A lot of the patrons are older Japanese men with jobs that took them all over the world so they speak very good English. Others are shy men and women who sometimes speak very well, but are too shy to engage in loud conversation and the occasional anecdote with us the foreigners.
At this Eigo Mora, I recognize a face; Niaya.  She’s a small girl from New York with a British accent.
“I hear there is an event at Second tonight.” She tells me.
“Oh really?” I say.
Second is a club near Junk, the western style bar where Eigo Mora is held. Second is  small and dark with graffiti covering ever square inch of the walls.
“Cool, we can roll.” I say.
After I say my goodbyes and sip on the last of my beer, I head out into the night with Niaya. She’s American, and sometimes her having an English accent is a little odd to me, but she always has interesting stories about being drunk and being hit on by strange Japanese men.  It’s about ten o’ clock, early for going out anywhere, but after buying a drink at the 7-11 near Junk, we head to second. Inside, is dark and hip-hop roars through speakers near the DJ. Behind the bar counter, is the owner. He is always in a black t-shirt with his long hair kept in a pontytail. He nods at me as I walk in, and I shake his hand. Inside, the dance floor is relatively empty, with four people standing at various points, covered in shadows. 
“Hey you!” a voice says from the Shadows. I see a familiar silhouette emerge and recognize Ten, the dancer. He’s bristling with his usual energy. He talks to Niaya while I stand on the dance floor. I’m feeling the music, and I groove a bit. To my left, two cute girls are watching me as I dance. I Go over and say hello.
“Your hat is cute.” I say to one of them. This is Ayano.
“I love your tattoo.” I say to the other.
The other girl has a tattoo of a scorpion on her left shoulder blade. I find this interesting, because having tattoos in Japan is very taboo, especially for women.
I go back to the dance floor and keep grooving. The girls are with a guy, and I can’t tell which one is with him. However, both of them rest eyes on me occasionally, which makes me wonder. Ten started doing his dance thing on the floor, spinning and doing rapid combinations of popping and locking. The girl with the scorpion tattoo came up to me and touched my arm.
“Dekai…” she said.
I laughed and pinched her on the cheek. Soon afterwards, the guy with the girls pulled her into a corner. The girl with the cute hat, Ayano, came over. We spoke in Japanese.
“Where are you from?” she said.
“Jamaica.” I told her.
“Really, why are you in Japan?” she asked.
“You know, the usual. Working, trying to find myself.” I said.
She was very cute, and we agreed to meet later. Despite all the fun I was having, there were only five of us in the club. “Catch you later.” I told her.
Myself, Niaya and Ten left the club at the same time. Outside, surprisingly, we saw the two girls and the guy. He didn’t look too happy to see me. The girl with the scorpion tattoo came up to me and touched my arm again. She really seemed fascinated with me, which was a little unusual for the small-town-shy-girl vibe I’d been getting for a while.
I laughed and told her I’d see them later. They walked off into the distance. Ten was laughing.
“Did you see his face? Wow, he was worried man!”
Niaya wasn’t really saying much, but she suggested we head to Planet Café. Monday nights at Planet Café aren’t anything to really get crazy about, but sometimes there were enough people there to have a little fun. We headed to planet, chatting about nothing important on the way.
I came in and said hello to the bartender, a guy of average height with a calm demeanour and an attractive face. Good for his job. I introduce him to Niaya and she is immediately enamored. After a few minutes she tells him, “I want you to be my boyfriend.” He laughs, and tells her he has a girlfriend.
BehindCafe. They squeal when they see me and Ten. I start chuckling and Ten is stifling a huge laugh. Later he would keep telling me he wished I saw the expression on the guy’s face (the guy the girls came with ) when he saw us at Planet Cafe.
Scorpion girl  had shifted her attention to Ten now, and I started chatting with three women sitting at a table near the bar.  Ayano (girl with the hat) was chatting to the guy she came with somewhere near the main entrance. The ladies I chatted to were an interesting bunch. One lived in Nagoya and was subtly hinting to me her hotel was nearby, the other worked in some sort of music company and the last lady was mostly quiet. They were in their late thirties, looking a little bored. 
Soon, I heard Ten’s voice.
“Go to the dance floor. NOW.” He said.
I excused myself from the table with the ladies. Apparently, the guy who came with the girls had left, leaving the two cuties unattended in the bar. I walked to the dance floor, which was empty. In the shadows near four large speakers in the back, were three distinguishable figures, Ten, Scorpion girl, and Ayano. I chatted to Ayano over the loud music, occasionally dancing and pecking her on the neck.
Soon after, we made out and went back inside, sitting together on a couch and chatting. We talked about Dragon Ball Z, music and a lot of other things. I was working overtime doing translation for Ten, who doesn’t speak that much Japanese. It seemed the night was going well. After half an hour the girl said they had to leave. Niaya said she’d grab a cab and see us later.
We followed the girls to their car, a small white cube looking vehicle, and said good night.

 

Barbeque, Beers and Salsa Piers   Leave a comment

Traveling can expose you to vistas you may never see anywhere else. For example, today I sat on a pier somewhere near Bentenijima, a town a few trains stops away from Hamamatsu, in the late evening. The water was dark and quiet, and the city lights far away, illuminated the blackness like a small box covered with fireflies. Every few minutes, a train would appear as a long snake, streaking across tracks in the distance, before disappearing into a tunnel. As I sat there, I spoke with a friend of mine, Emi.

 Emi was sitting in the darkness, her long hair like a veil. She was barefoot and wearing a floral dress, the patterns hard to distinguish. We were talking about life. As she sat there in the darkness, and me beside her, I felt an interesting sense of time and space. Earlier, I had come here for a Salsa barbeque. Through Emi, I had transportationto the event with a cool young Japanese man named Taka. He had been to Jamaica, on a cruise with his wife of two months, Marie. Meeting him was a notch in a long sequence  of introductions I had been flooded with since my arrival to Japan. The salsa crowd had been introduced to me by Emi, and I had marveled that first night the way everyone had looked at me, wide-eyed and curious, the question marks like invisible halos over their heads.

That night, many girls requested a dance from me, some so shy to touch my hands I could feel them trembling with every step we took. It had been a whirlwind and intriguing, a barrage of sensations doused with the indigo of the club’s black lights. But here, in the open, it wasn’t the same. My Japanese was hardly conversational, and I’m not a serious Salsa enthusiast anymore. I had danced for years in different clubs, but I lost my passion for it. As I approached the Barbeque area with Taka, we parked in a lot across the road. An old totem pole grabbed my attention, and I snapped a picture with it.

The park itself was a family center, with tables set up for groups to sit, and a rocky path lead to the beach nearby. I was quiet for most of the time, regretting that I hadn’t eaten before I got there. Everyone brought beef or pork to cook, neither of which I ate. I sipped Pepsi and slowly ate vegetables, grumbling at my ineptitude of foresight. Also, I didn’t know there was a fee for the barbeque. Someone brought a little chicken with them, so I was able to eat a few tiny morsels of food, but the barbeque had a price tag of 1000 yen, which I didn’t know. After paying for my meal and grumbling at the emptiness of my stomach, I heard there was a Salsa party afterward, at

a local venue. At some point during this Barbeque, Emi had arrived, looking regal in a black suit. She had taken some kind of exam for teachers, but seemed upset because she didn’t feel like she passed it. After the Barbeque ended, we took a group picture.

We walked over to the club, and I groaned. It was another 1000 yen to go into the club and all I could see beyond me were a sea of Japanese bodies. I started to feel a little choked; something that occasionally happens to me in a completely homogenous environment. Two things were working against me; prohibitive spending for things I did not want to do, and distance. Even if I wanted to leave, I had no way to get home. I sighed and made small talk with the Japanese Salsa crowd, who asked me repeatedly why I wasn’t dancing.

I didn’t feel like explaining to them I was hungry, and didn’t like Salsa dancing that much. I also couldn’t bother to say that I wasn’t in the best spirits to begin with. I sat in a chair, thinking about Japan. Even though this was a different country and a different set of rules of meeting people was essentially the same. You don’t need language to have fun. Cost doesn’t matter, the choice is whether or not you want to take what you can from what’s there. So far, I didn’t feel like taking anything. In the past I would have loved something like this, dancing the night away with a group of Japanese people, happily grabbing every girl that laid an eye on me. But in some way they all felt like obstacles; barriers in this new world. So I went outside.

I sat on the pier, watching mostly fathers and sons fishing in the nighttime. Everyone had a small flashlight on a string around their neck, and it was quiet, save the occasional laugh of a child. I felt a little sad and cold, so far away from friends and family, unable to have fun. It felt like a curse, this “wall” I saw in front of me. I tried to think of five years before, when I leapt at the chance to do anything involving fun, wherever I was. Had things become so dark? Was happiness so elusive?

I sat there for a long time, and soon a few of the Salsa group were on the pier beside me. They stood there like statues, chatting with each other while Emi spoke to me. They went back inside to dance, and I started chatting to Emi about life. She was searching for something meaningful in the world, looking at ways to feel better about herself and her life. I told her about choices and journeys, connections and ways of looking on reality. I told her an interesting yarn about meditation, personal psychology and the power of making decisions. It sounded good to me, and I started to feel a little better. In the midst of this conversation, with Emi and I sitting barefoot there together, I
wasn’t sure how to think of her. She was definitely become a friend, and I her confidant. I didn’t have the luxury of imagining anything else. After my brief time in Japan thus far, the idea of a young woman wanting anything from me even remotely sexual seems vague and unrealistic.

After our long conversation, we walked back inside. The party was in full swing, and I could feel the heat from the dance floor. Near the reception area, a tall Japanese man was giving massages to women, who had formed an eager line. I glanced inside. Bodies moved to and fro with amazing precision. Everyone was Japanese, and I looked at their long silky hair, twinkling eyes and smiling teeth. Then I sat back on the couch. Something in me wanted to dance, to reach out and lose myself in the crowd, but I couldn’t. A girl I met at the barbeque came over to me, telling me to come inside and dance. I told her I didn’t feel like it, and she didn’t seem to understand. My responses were protracted and awkward, and I sighed once more and walked outside.

Now it was completely dark, save the lights of a few vending machines. Emi asked me if I wanted to get an ice cream, and I said yes. She treated me to a cone, and I stood by a railing near the entrance for a while. Soon, a few people were leaving, and I got a ride back into the city. Two very genki women were in the car, and excitedly asked me questions about Salsa and Jamaica. They were fascinated to learn that their car was called an “S.U.V” in the states. In Japan, one of them
said, the car is called “4.W.D”. I laughed at this.

The girls in the car were cute, but I knew I would never know them much better. The gulf of language and culture was always there, too wide for me to cross. I came out of the car at the Hamamatsu station, where I had parked my bike. I thanked them and told them goodnight. I unlocked my bike and headed into the city, hoping to find something exciting to do on a slightly chilly Saturday night.


Magnum Cock Size   1 comment

The bar is filled with people. They are swathed in dull amber lights, and the din of conversation floats out onto the street. I’m sitting beside a blonde Russian with a propensity for saying “Fuck you” as a response to almost any statement I make. In front of me, a tall broad-chested Japanese  man is standing up and pointing a meaty finger at me.

“Show me your magnum.” He says.
“What?”
“Show me your magnum cock size.” He says.

His eyes are furrowed into a make-believe expression of intensity, and he almost looked like a Who Wants To Be a Millionaire TV host, except one that’s really, really drunk. I’m getting used to the Japanese men’s ambiguously gay behaviour, but some nights it’s a little annoying. I’m having a beer, and the Russian is being a bit icy. “You are cool, ” I said to her. “You came here and you are taking care of business.” I said after a sip of beer. “Fuck you.” She replies. I say a few more things, and she keeps repeating those words.
I sigh. Tonight feels like one of those nights when I’m crawling slowly uphill in hot sun with a life preserver on. I leave the table. I go up stairs and chat with two girls, who I’ve labeled M and M. They are chatting to Texas, a cool guy I know who is from… Texas. M number two has an English accent. She has a small, very round face. The first thing I think of when I see her is a porcelain doll.
Today is a going away party for Eric, a guy who’s been in Hamamatsu for a year and a half. He’s  a small guy with dark hair and calm features. They call him Pepsi Boy. There’s a good turnout. Everyone is glowing with positive energy. Twice tonight, people would spill beer on me.
I head to another bar, Liquid Kitchen with M number one. We chat about nothing interesting in particular. I like M number one, but I explained to her my theory about women who are twenty-five years old. “Women who are twenty-five that I’ve met are a little crazy.” I said. “Either they want to sleep with everyone under the sun, or get married in a hurry… there doesn’t seem to be an in between.”
This obviously, means nothing. Liquid Kitchen, I say hello to everyone. A good crowd is in the house, including some of my fellow co-workers. I see a few English girls who were in my training program when I first came to Japan, and I make small talk.
“Marcus, I never see you!” one of them chimes in a heavy accent.
I smile and nod. The other English girl, always dressed in a cute outfit that connotes a somewhat ‘indie’ fashion sense, gives me a sly eye.  She has long dark hair with a set of razor sharp bangs above her eyes. When I met her, she said she loved Reggae music.
“I can dance like the black girls.” She had said to me those months ago.

At the time I’m not sure what I said. I think I probably chuckled, or said nothing, since I was still recovering from horrible Jet Lag at the time. One thing was certain though, the people in those initial groups kept in touch pretty well. I always ran into them, hearing stories about wild parties in Kyoto and Tokyo, trips to small Japanese Inns and people running out on Sushi bills. They were living the kind of Japanese lifestyle that seemed fun and natural for a foreigner. Stuff you laugh about over a cup of coffee or a few beers. They are going to planet Café tonight.
I decide to go.

I go a few minutes ahead of the group and walk in quickly, not paying. Inside, there is a small but decent crowd. Someone says my name, and I see a Japanese lady in a Kimono with a beer in her hand. I met her yesterday. “Marcus!” she says. “You are here… did you get my e-mail?”
“E-mail? I don’t think so.” I replied.
I fished out my phone and checked my messages. I frowned. There were two messages from her. One asking where I was, and then another about her being at Planet Café. She was a masseuse, with short brown hair and a nice smile. I asked her if she wanted to dance a little but she said no, she was too drunk.  She was in the company of two young Japanese guys, one of whom seemed a tad uncomfortable I was talking to her.

Seeing this lady wasn’t particularly thrilling. What eventually happened is that she proclaimed: “I never kiss someone I don’t know until a month. Maybe more.” She said this with a sly deceptive smile. I didn’t laugh. I had met a few of these Japanese women, who kept pushing a vague shield of super innocence, whether they were twenty, twenty-five or thirty. I didn’t ask to kiss her, and I wasn’t about to try and spend four to eight weeks trying to get one either. I told her goodnight.

On the dance floor, a sparse group of Japanese kids were standing up, watching the DJ. The music was okay, but I sighed at the observation of the social dynamics inside. See, Japanese people always face the DJ, seem to rarely interact with each other, and then leave in the group they came in. Occasionally I might break the mold and speak to someone on the dance floor, but it was so awkward (especially when everyone was facing forward and you weren’t ) that it required an extremely good mood and a desire to meet someone, both of which I didn’t have.
Back into the main area with the tables, I notice a few of the foreigners enter the bar. The English girl is sitting in a corner. I take a quick glance at her, wearing her black head wrap and boy shorts. She is chatting to a very effeminate looking Japanese guy in a red shirt. “She likes Japanese girly boys.” A friend tells me. I groan. This night is getting more lame.
I joke with another girl I know, a girl with an English accent who isn’t from England, and she seems bothered. I was teasing her about liking Japanese guys. She is standing with a very short, average looking Japanese guy (incidentally wearing a red-shirt too). “He’s my boyfriend.” She says looking offended.

Now something feels wrong. Living here in Japan is living between the extremes of social interactions with different people. This is the land where short effeminate men dominate the bars and clubs. In America I feel sometimes tall and skinny, but here I feel like a looming beast, intimidating and overbearing. I take one last look at the crowd, and leave.

I go back to KK house, and sing Karaoke with Eric and a few of his close friends. I sing two Linkin Park songs, screaming into the microphone to drown my sorrows. After the last song, I stand up and the crowd applauds. Then I realize, everyone sitting down is a couple. I sigh, and leave. Downstairs, men are reaping the fruits of their labour. Guys are getting numbers and things seem to be progressing. I walk outside into the night air, and hop on my bike. I try to get into a club for free nearby, and three bouncers almost jump me. I am a head taller than each of them, but they exhibit that telltale bouncer behaviour; the arm around the waist, and one kept saying “Let’s talk outside.”

I left the club and went home, flopping onto my bed. On my computer screen, is a frozen image of the movie Back To The Future. Seeing it makes me smile. I let out a heavy breath, and hope tomorrow is a better day.

Junko’s Birthday Bash   1 comment

All is dark, and people sit on the floor with legs crossed and eyes focused. Booming dancehall music erupts from a stack of speakers. An array of lights flash then we see her. She steps out regaled in a policeman outfit made of a dark, shiny material. Wearing dark glasses with a sneer on her face, she begins the routine. The Jacket flies off with a sweep of her hand, revealing a hard stomach and tanned skin. Then after a few seductive moves, she pulls the pants away, effortlessly tossing them to the side and continuing her routine. The music is pounding, and now the dancer, wearing a glittery top and boy shorts, starts moving her hips and body in ways that tease the imagination. A few feet away onstage, I’m watching this performance. The dancer is Junko, the first Japanese woman to win the Jamaican Dancehall queen competition.

I’m at a Reggae party called “Goodaz Fridays”, which is held monthly at the Hunters club in Hamamatsu. The crowd is thick, filled with cute Japanese reggae girls and gung ho guys who could rival many Jamaicans on the dance floor. A guy wearing a full white outfit moves with the cultural precision of a full-blooded Jamaican. Beside him a set of girls with platinum blonde hair and non-existent shorts go through routine after routine of practiced dancehall moves. I, the Jamaican stand there for a while, spellbound at the display. A few familiar faces are around; girls I’ve met through the Hamamatsu reggae scene. I see a girl in an off-white leopard print dress standing in the corner, she’s a local dancer. I see Ribbon girl as well, who greeted me with a weak smile. A few other dancers were there, all exhibiting a slightly different body language tonight, and they were all in close proximity to Junko.

Junko in person is reasonably tall. She’s thicker than the average Japanese girl, and thus has more presence. Years of doing headstands, dutty wining and complex routines has given her a very sexy musculature. She stands by the bar with a few local DJs, who are shamelessly soaking up the limelight with her. She laughs while downing drink after drink, casually exuding star power. I find her attractive but not beautiful, sexy but not skanky. In 2002, she came to Jamaica and stunned the audiences with her acrobatic display of dancehall finesse. From jumping splits to handstands and the occasional death-defying move, the other participants were powerless to innovate in her presence. I remember seeing her on TV, barely able to speak any English, happy to stand on her head upon request. “I love Jamaica.” She had said back then.

That was seven years ago, and seeing her in person is interesting. For the local reggae groupies in town, Junko must be the epitome of their world; that place which is a hybridization of Jamaica and Japan. She is their queen, the pinnacle of what they want to be. In their desires to learn dances, songs and Jamaican culture, maybe they all want to be little dancehall queens themselves, rising up into the limelight in shiny outfits with sweat-laced foreheads.

“Happy birthday.” I said to Junko in Japanese.

This was one of a few sprinkled moments of conversation I would have with her during the night. The first time I spoke to her, she replied in English.
“Why do you speak like a Japanese?” she said.
I laughed.
“I like Japan.” I replied in Japanese.

The party started to pick up at about three a.m. The music, fast and powerful was a blur of modern tunes interlaced with the screeching voices of amped-up selectors. River, a local reggae artiste was walking around with a camera, snapping the action. I was dancing too, and possibly making my Japanese media debut on a “Goodaz Friday” bashment DVD. Hilarious.

I ran into a friend at the party, and we mingled with the girls for little while in between dancing. One girl, tall and attractive with brown hair was enamored with my friend, who was a dancer. They disappeared to a dark section of the club for a few minutes while her friend ignored me.

I was on the prowl tonight, and as I would learn, things weren’t so easy. Every girl I’d met on the reggae circuit was in attendance, and they were all unusually frigid. Dancing robotically to the music and chatting amongst themselves, the party at times felt strange. Even when what we Jamaicans call “Gyal tunes” started playing, the crowd wasn’t intermingling that much.

See, in Jamaica, a party escalates gradually to levels that force people to dance. At the crescendo of a good party, many people dance together. So far, at the bigger events I’d been to in Japan, it seemed a lot of people were content to just dance by themselves all night. I saw Ribbon girl walking around alone. As usual she had a drink in her hand. She seemed lost; standing by a speaker at one moment, and in the middle of the dance floor the next. She wasn’t dancing with anyone, just drinking. Later I would see her on a couch, her legs oddly crossed as she stared forward blankly in a drunken daze. Maybe she had problems, I thought. Family, childhood, who knows. Like my life is any different.

At around seven I left the club, giving a chilly goodbye to a few girls I see all the time who decided to ignore me around Junko. I told (the now drunk) Junko all the best. She gave me a half-goodbye, half hand-squeeze and sipped more of her drink. Later, a friend would show me scandalous pictures of Junko dancing with some of the sound guys. I laughed when I saw these pictures, because one thing with a dancehall queen, is that she won’t just dance with anyone.

Morning sun hit me with a slap as I rode home, tired and stained with sweat. I vaguely remembered there was some number I had to call, or some e-mail to send. I forgot about it and fell asleep.

Hot Japanese Mom and the Ribbon Girl   2 comments

June 14th, 2009

A Daquiri, I say, Is a sweet drink. It usually has strawberries in it, or some kind of fruit. You blend it with vodka, ice and a little sugar. In front of me, nodding and somewhat understanding, is a bartender at Planet Café. I’ve been trying to explain for roughly twelve minutes what a Daquiri is.

I’m here on a Sunday, and I feel bored, even though my day has consisted of watching Terminator: Salvation at noon, passing through a barbeque with some friends and hitting up a video arcade. My city restlessness has a new face.

At the bar are a few people from the reggae parties I’ve seen around. A DJ from the T.P sound system crew, his girl and Gully. I order a gin and tonic after giving up on my Daquiri. As the bartender made my drink, he laughed and asked me to write down the ingredients for the Daquiri. I’m waiting on Ribbon girl, the one I met at the party last night. We chatted on the phone briefly after I went to my Barbeque. When I spoke to her, a twinge of excitement had trickled through me when her number popped up on my phone. At the time I was sitting on the sidewalk, chatting to a friend about nothing in particular.
I took a sip of my drink, when a flurry of activity beside me grabbed my attention. Two gorgeous girls with slim bodies and long brown hair came to the bar coasting on a sea of giggles. I thought one of them was a girl I met the night before, at the reggae party.

“Hug.” I said.

Nani?” (what?)she replied.

I said it again, more Japanesey. “HUG-OO.” I said. She hugged me, and then I realized I’d never met her. I also realized in the same thought she was very drunk. Japanese girls never hug guys they don’t know. Unless of course, you are famous.
“Hi.” She said exasperatedly.
“Hey.” I replied.
She was pretty, with movie actress looks and flawless skin. She wore a stylish outfit that screamed high fashion. Her friend smiled as I talked to her, but chatted to one of the bartenders and left us alone.
“Where you from?” she said.
“Jamaica.” I replied.
“Really?” she said.
She said this with absolute surprise, in the way a child who swore he failed a test  realizes he actually received an A. I told her I was a designer. Incidentally, I was wearing one of my own shirts.
“I want to buy one.” She said, rubbing my chest. “I am a mother!” she exclaimed triumphantly.
“Very cool.” I said. “One child?”
“Yes, I have one. But I am twenty-one!”
She said this with a bright expression. I held her hand and without getting up, beckoned her to twirl. “Very nice.” I said.
She was. If she hadn’t told me she had a kid, it would be impossible to tell.
“You think I am nice?” she asked. Her eyes were filled with desire.
“Yes, you are.” I replied.
A part of me wanted to exploit this situation, but as a rule, I never like drunk women. The only way it works is if I’m equally drunk when I meet them, but at present I was stone cold sober. Having a sexy mother of one on my speed dial would be cool, but alas, Ribbon girl would arrive any minute.
I was right. In the periphery of my vision, I glimpsed her. She was looking very cute, with huge designer glasses. She wore a black and white dress over a pair of tight jeans. I could see the taper of her body through the layers. She had lip gloss on and a purse that resembled a ribbon. The theme continued.
I saw her pause as she said hello to some of the people from last night. Her eyes were on me, but I didn’t move. I’m not the type to play too many headgames, I was just observing.
The hot mom disappeared with a guy onto the the dance floor, and I turned to Ribbon girl. “Hey! You been here long?” I said. She walked over. She gave me a weak hug and stood by the bar. Close up, I could see the glow of the bar lights on her lips. She put her bag down. She seemed a little nervous. I chatted to her about my day and ask her some questions about herself.
“I don’t do much.” She replied. ” I just like to dance.”
Ah, I said in my mind. She’s a party girl.
I’ve messed with party girls before. One word always comes to mind when I think of a party girl.
Dangerous.
Party girls always seem to have nothing to do, are often sexy and probably slept with a few guys you’ve met before if you go out a lot. This generally means it’s a bad idea to think you’re special if she likes you. Sometimes this can change after a few sexual encounters, but not always.
She reached into her bag and pulled out a small camera. The LCD flashed brightly as it came on. With her glasses and jeans, she looked like a shadow of herself the night before.  The image of her leaping on me, her face pressing against my neck and the smell of her shampoo flooded my senses quickly. It faded quickly, like a puff of cigarette smoke.
She showed me pictures of her in Jamaica. “Maji de??”(Really?) I said. Then I remembered somewhere between tequila shot eight or nine she had mentioned living in Jamaica for a month. Through her pictures I was catapulted back home. I saw the bright glowing faces of people with dark skin and short curly hair. She showed me the hot spots; Stone Love’s headquarters for Weddy Wednesdays, Lime Quay beach for Sunday afternoon, Devon house for tasty ice cream, and more. There were pictures with famous Jamaicans, and a few of her Japanese friends going wild at big parties, like Passa Passa.
I playfully joked with her, but she was shy, different. She ordered Chozou, a popular drink (sake mixed with water). I didn’t know why she was nervous. After she put the camera back into her bag, her entire focused drifted to the UNO game the people beside us were playing. I hinted a few times at going to dance, but she kept saying she was watching the game.
That’s an incredibly fascinating game of UNO, I thought to myself. Then I remembered. She was a party girl. I’m new to the scene. Disappearing with her on the dance floor might put her on the bad news bus. While we were looking at the pictures, she mentioned some party on Friday she was going to. She watched the UNO game, and I sat, bored on the stool. I got up and left.
As I exited the bar, before the door close I heard my name. In a movie-scene way, the door slammed in front of her as I glimpsed her looking at me.
“I see you Friday night?” she said.
“Yes.” I replied.
She went inside. I laughed a little, because she had practically chased me out of the bar. Party girls are different, I thought. I left the underground passage leading out of Planet and heading outside, back into the nighttime and towards the bowels of the city.

Good Will Hunters   Leave a comment

Five guys are holding me.

I grit my teeth and struggle as a mild weightlessness hits me. Someone is holding my legs; I’m being escorted out of a club. Angry voices escape the premises and rocket into the night air. Brazilian guys are barking at me in a mosaic of words I can’t understand.

Mi amiga y amigo.” I say in broken Spanish.
One man, with thick eyebrows furrowed into an angry gaze shouts: “He punched a girl!”
“Really?” I reply.
He was talking about Eric, one of three people I came to the club with. The night didn’t start like this.
Like most Fridays, this one started at 7-11. I grabbed a few beers for the walk to downtown Hamamatsu. By the time I reached Yuraku-gai, I had a nice buzz. I was wearing a light purple shirt and an age-old accessory; the man tie.
Yuraku-gai is crawling with people, and I entertain myself by saying hello to cute girls walking by. I make a pit stop at the video arcade and lose a few games playing with my current Street Fighter character, Guile. I bounce into 7-11 and grab another drink. I run into a friend, Ten. I chat to some cute girls with red hair. Behind them a few girls say, “Konbanwa.” And disappear into a building called Cote d’ Azur. I wince a little. Japanese girls rarely say unprovoked hellos. I should have chatted to them, but they were gone.
A heavy hand lands on my shoulder. It’s Will. He is beaming a bright smile, almost goofy. He’s drunk. That’s when the man-grabbing ensued. I tried to grab will and we tussled. Ten grabbed him from behind, and he was momentarily suspended in the air.
We go to 7-11. “Can you get me a drink?” he says. I say sure. He tells me that my favourite drink (Suntory Strong) is stronger than a regular beer. I look on the label. Sure enough, its 8% when all the beers are 5% alcohol. We buy a few and head to Liquid Kitchen. Somewhere along the way, we lose Ten.
At liquid, we go inside like a hailstorm. A few girls are inside. Two of them are cute foreigners. Will zeroes in on girl number one while I entertain her friend. Her face intrigues me, and I like her lips.
“You’re too hot for me.” She says. “Why do you like my fat?”
She’s a little chubby, but not obese. I poke her stomach and tell her she’s adorable.
Inside Will is doing shots. Marty (the owner of the bar) give me free shots. The ladies aren’t biting. (plus my chick has a boyfriend). After standing around in fuzzy, smily-faced daze, we head out. We both have passes for the Brazilian club, Hunters, and decide to go there.
Back on Yuraku-gai,  I see two familiar faces; redheads in a sea of Jet black Asian hair. “Grab?” I say to Will. He smiles and nods. Will lunges after Stephanie, and whirls her around like a ragdoll. We laugh and make jokes. Everyone is going to hunters.
Will has been wilder than normal. He’s usually the king of cool. For some reason he seemed distracted. In a few weeks he’d be leaving Japan after living there for several years. It must have been messing with his head.
With Stephanie, Me, Will and Eric, we went to Hunters. It was some sort of traditional Brazilian folk music night. As always, I saw the same faces. I danced a little with Stephanie, stepping horribly to the Brazilian music. She was all smiles and rhythm, getting so close I could smell her shampoo. She occasionally gave Will a furtive gaze, and I wondered what it meant. Somewhere in this stream of thought, I see Eric being dragged away by a beefy guy. The guy had him in a headlock. Oddly, he was smiling. Stephanie stretched out a pale hand towards him.
Nooooo… he’s my friend.” She said in a strange voice.
I reached forward, getting a good hold on Eric and that’s when I felt arms behind my neck and bodies around me. I surged with strength to no avail. As the guys clamored around me, I wonder what happened. This is when I heard that Eric punched a girl.
This seemed strange (Eric is gay). No one could figure out why he would do that. I was near the entryway. Behind me, a short bouncer with thick sideburns had my left arm twisted upwards behind me. I didn’t struggle. As I learned more about what happened I just nodded. He let me go.
Later Will told he that he was the person that grabbed me initially, protecting me from a beatdown by guys behind me that I didn’t even see.
With a smile, Will said. “I told them “nooo!” that’s my friend! Then I grabbed you. I got two punches in the face.”
This was interesting.
“They said, “Get the black guy! Get the black guy!” Will said excitedly.
I laughed this. “Really?” I asked.
“Yes. Because you are bigger and taller and you have muscles they thought you would fight. They were ready to beat you up.”
He told me this as we were walking Eric home, somewhere nearby. He was being a diva, not wanting to go home. Eventually, through a lot of cajoling he went inside his apartment, which wasn’t too far from the club. As the three of us walked away, chatting about nothing in particular, we hear a voice behind us. It was Eric.
Will walked up to him and spoke in a calm voice. “Go home. Seriously, if you go back there they will kill you. Go home.”
This seemed to register in his mind, even through his inebriation. He nodded and still smiling, walked back home. We walked some more and Stephanie commented on our bodies. She called us “threesome material”. I wasn’t sure how to take this, and I didn’t say anything. We went back to the club. One bouncer told me that’s the third time Eric has been kicked out of hunters. He was officially banned for life.
I went back inside and danced a little. Stephanie went home alone. “Call me later eh?” she said. I followed Will to KK house where he met up with a friend. It was around five a.m. I hopped on my bike, and went home.

SQUATMASTER   Leave a comment

I’ve
 held a few titles in my life. Writer, Intern, sometimes traveler… but now I can 
add a new one to the list:

SQUATMASTER.

I worried about using tiny toilets in Japan. Not because of my monstrous size,
 but small toilets are like little divas; they need lots of attention and they 
can snap at any moment. The mechanics of their use can be troublesome. The
 knobs to flush are really tiny, and if the bathroom is equally tiny, good luck
 trying to flush, or reach for the roll of toilet paper directly behind your 
shoulder blades.  I frightened 
myself with these images constantly before I came to Japan, imaging myself 
stuck in a bathroom unable to leave because I wouldn’t be able to grab any 
tissue. As time passed I realized I wouldn’t have to deal with this issue,
 because almost everywhere I went, there were no toilets.

Just holes in the ground.

These are the toilets of the future. Simple and to the point. You pee in the floor, 
you squat to take a dump, but you better aim carefully. The first time I saw on
e of these “holes”, I thought it was just a urinal, but then I saw a roll of 
tissue paper beside the smallest garbage receptacle i’ve ever seen. In the last
 few weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a cycle of eating that finds me 
at home should I need to use the throne. But the first time I saw the shiny
 porcelain toilet, gurgling in the ground, I new eventually we’d meet again.
 That was yesterday.

Yesterday

I’m in the bathroom, and I’m debating. I’m wondering if I should clamp up and wait
 five hours before I go home, or lose my squatting virginity. I stand in the
 shadows of the dark bathroom, looking through a stained glass. I laugh at 
myself and remember the term ‘Squatmaster’ from high school in Jamaica. When 
you need to use a really digusting public bathroom, you don’t sit on the seat,
 you squat over it to protect yourself from diseases and infections. I’d never 
been in a situation that required the use of this technique. Now, in Japan, I’m
 pacing around in a small bathroom with tiny blue tiles, figuring out my
 strategy. I said what the heck.

I stepped into the bathroom and shut the door. It was very small–no more than
 five square feet–and I stood there, figuring out the logistics. Number one, I
 have bad knees. I can barely dance much less squat carefully to get rid of my 
body’s excreta. Number two, there were any variety of unknown things that could 
happen once I turned around, and pulled my pants down. I crouched, feeling 
quite infantile. Then I smiled, because for millions of Japanese people, this 
was normal. My pants came down with a swoosh.

Then I realized, I should have hung up my pants. Overhead was a hook on the door,
 but it was too late, I’d already started. I felt a little panicked. Where my 
pants going to get smudged, or wet? I barely had space to move, much less 
manouver. I treid reach back for the toilet paper, but my hand kept hitting a
wall. “Dammit.” I said, trying to shuffle properly. I couldn’t move. Any 
movement of my feet a few inches to the left or right and my pants would be
 soggy with toilet water. Or I’d dunk a shoe in the toilet. I glanced up at the 
hook again and groaned.

My thighs were hurting now and I could feel it in my knees. This certainly wasn’t 
the sweet relief I’m accustomed to. I wondered if people squat and read. It 
didn’t seem likely.

I brought my self up into a half crouch, my entire body trembling. Making sure 
not to get my belt or pants wet, I slowly removed one shoe. Tiny beads of sweat 
formed on my forehead. My level of concentration was high; I felt like I was
 diffusing a nuclear weapon. I took off the other shoe, shaking like a leaf. I 
got my pants off and went back into the normal squat. It was a good thing the 
doors were small, I could hang up my pants easily.

I breathed more easily, but it wasn’t over. I was concerned about aim, because if
I didn’t aim properly, I’d be the obvious culprit and I could never some into 
the establishment again. I was skating on thin ice. I tried to remember my 
early potty lessons. All I got were a few blurry images of a smelly yellow
 potty from twenty years ago. The ease with which little kids do what they had
 to do eluded me, I almost laughed.

I grunted and shuffled forward. I was good to go.

After I was done, I hit another snag. Toilet paper. The toilet paper was on a roll in
t he corner of the bathroom. I had no space to move. I couldn’t turn around to
 grab it, and now my legs were really starting to feel it. I wondered how the 
hell people were comfortable doing this.

I took a deep breath. Above me were two replacement rolls on a tiny shelf above 
my right shoulder. Slamming my elbow into the wall as I reached up, I grabbed a
 roll. I paused as I held it in my hand. Wiping logistics had changed. The way a 
person cleans themselves changes drastically when you are stooping and 
trembling. I missed the comfort of my toilet.

I was wearing a long sleeved shirt,
 which made things even more interesting. One slip up and I’d be scrubbing the
 end of my shirtsleeve for a while before I came out of the bathroom. Thirty
 seconds later, I was done. No scuffs, no smudges.

I stood up and my thighs screamed with relief. I felt massive in the tiny space;
 this kind of thing was definitely not designed with me in mind. Images of small 
Asian men and women squatting on millions of these things popped into my head.
 Talk about culture shock.

I slipped my pants back on and did a proper hand wash. I never thought a daily 
bodily would function could double as a workout. This, I said to myself, will
 not become a habit.

Taito Station   Leave a comment

I’m getting somewhat settled.

I sometimes try to think about the sense of Japan I had when I wasn’t here, the way I would imagine the trees and people would look, the things I would see and hear, but so far, the city I’m staying in feels like any other city I’ve ever been in.

I’m in bed for most of the day, mostly out of boredom, and sometimes I get lost in thought, floating through memories of past things. I have a brief Skpe conversation with my family back home, and then I decide to take a walk.

I’ve been trying to find a video arcade for the last few days, and today is the day to go. Its chilly and overcast, but I wear dark glasses. I don’t mind saying sumimasen all day long, but today, I want to hide my eyes. I want my thoughts to be hidden from the world behind my dark lenses.

I’m strolling quietly in a pair of skinny jeans and a biker vest that fits me perfectly. With my glasses and headphones, I feel futuristic. I know I stand out, but it doesn’t excite me. I wonder what the old Japanese man in his bicycle shop thinks of me. What does the lady in the car passing by think? Who knows. All I know is that the sounds of the city are gone, drowned out by the pounding of music in my ears.

I walk near my new hang out street, a small brightly lit street filled with cool stores, cheap bars and thrift shops. I take a left down a street I haven’t walked on before, and I find a tidy collection of small clubs and more bars. I remind myself that I have to return.

During the day the city rolls along like a quiet beast grazing in a large field. Everything happens as it is supposed to: Cars drive, people walk, lights blink. As I exit the alley, I notice a large ZaZa City sign, and I know where I am. ZaZa City is a large mall near the station. I shared a meal with the two Aussies there a few days prior.

I cross the street, patiently waiting for the light to change, and then I see it. Its called Taito Station, and I can hear that mish-mash of arcade noises that I used to love as a teenager. I go inside, and chuckle. Two small, very cute teddy-bear robot thingies are walking about on the floor. They aren’t moving in any particular direction, but they have sensors to help guide them as they “walk” around. They main an irregular but circular path near the entrance. One word:  adorable.

The arcade is a good size, and I see a small crowd of who I think are college or high school students. I take a street at a street fighter 4 machine. For 100 yen (one token), I play until the final stage, and surprise myself at how excited the game makes me feel. My legs are warm with anticipation and I feel the blood rushing through my arms and legs. I haven’t played a video game in a long time. I didn’t realize how good it felt.

After trying to beat the final guy a few times, I get a challenge from a young Japanese guy. He destroys me, and I go to play Dance Dance revolution. As I look on the machine, I smile a half-smile of pleasure and pain.

The last time I played DDR was in Barcelona, two years prior. Sitting behind me at the time was my girlfriend. I can still hear her voice. “wow, you are good!” she had said. At the time, she was holding my little Sony Cybershot, shooting video of me stepping on the colourful arrows that coincide with the musical beats. For a second, my heart flutters, then stops. The image fades, but I am reminded that love never goes away.

I step onto the machine and try to figure out the menu. I end up picking the easy game first, and awkwardly step to a few easy songs. Next time, I pick a harder level and have some more fun. I slip on my glasses and step in unison. At some point during my life I said I wanted to play Dance Dance Revolution in Japan. I had my moment. This time there was no one behind me, no beautiful face smiling at me and holding my camera, but I was there, stepping to the music, getting funky.

After my second game, I went to the 7-11 across the street and grabbed a small snack. The day was getting more chilly, and I decided to walk home. This city feels little like DC, but not really. DC is mixed. Even minorities are a majority in DC. Here, things are more homogeneous. People look similar, and dress similarly. Everything feels very quiet. I slip my ear phones on, toss my wrapper into the garbage, and start the slow walk home.

At the underpass, I run into Jeff, a guy from Boston who lives here. He is a large strapping fellow, with a very innocent face. We chit-chat briefly. There isn’t much going on tonight, he tells me. I nod and say I’ll probably see him later. My stomach feels a little off–I don’t think I ate much for the day–and I need some food. In a few minutes I’m back to my apartment. I open the door and I’m greeted by a gust of cold air. I close the door, and temporarily, everything goes dark.

The Jesus Body Tablet   Leave a comment

I’m in Hamamatsu station, taking a walk.

jesusbod2mar30.jpg

I still haven’t gotten my full bearings on the city yet, and I decide to checkout a bookstore I heard about. It is small, with a selection of mostly Japanese books. I browse idly for a few minutes, then walk over to an aisle with perfumes and lotions. There I see something that makes me smile, even though I’m not in the most cheerful mood.

Its a product called JESUS BODY.

I chuckle to myself. This seems so typically Japanese, I can’t even do more than just shake my head a few times. Apparently, the “Jesus Body” is a diet system of some kind that involves taking tablets. However, what’s hilarious isn’t just the name, but what is written on the box itself:
jesusbod1mar30.jpg