RANMAGAZINE.COM December ‘09 / January ‘10 | ISSUE 3 |


Are You Crazy?

Culture Shock Takes Its Toll

Sex With A Stranger
Probing A Sex Worker

Shooting Blanka

Nagoya’s Dance Machine

Down And Logged Out
The Economic Crisis In Japan

Japanese Cops
Let’s Be Careful Out There.. PLUS: Greenspot Fashion Deadly’s Tips and RANZOO!

初 め に

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Romance and Diplomacy
Three issues in, and the seams are starting to show. People are getting ornery and deadlines are being missed, ignored, or openly ridiculed. Like any romantic relationship, ours has reached the critical six month mark, that moment where you’ve tried every sexual position there is more than a few times, talked until dawn about your dreams and your childhood and your dashed hopes and plans, you’ve even taken showers together and sadly it seems the infatuation is starting to wear off, and you’re realizing the other person isn’t some Gift from God with superpowers, he/she is just another flawed human with issues and baggage and emphatically NO, they’re not going to save you from yourself, that monumental task is still in your own hands. Which is a good thing. Who knows you better than you know yourself? That’s why I gave the foreword the title “Romance and Diplomacy”, and yes it does have the slightest allusion to Prez Obama cruising through these parts recently to make sure the Japanese and Chinese still believe in The American Dream, even if no one in America believes in it anymore. Point being, you’ve got to sell yourself on some dream, romance, wealth, fame, beauty, importance, invention, immortality, a nice bowl of soup, Viagra, something has to get you out of your bed in the morning, and then it’s up to you to make it happen. I’ve had this idea for a film in my head since I arrived here. It goes something like this; A frazzled and morethan-slightly bereft dude from Brooklyn with a shady background arrives in a medium-sized city in present-day Japan. He immediately falls in love with a beautiful and traditional Japanese girl whose family, naturally, doesn’t approve of the young couple’s budding Forbidden Romance. This is in no small part due to the Brooklyn dude’s non-Japaneseness, as well as the pervading sense of conservative-ness and overall closedmindedness of the local city they live in. They go underground. Their passion stirs up trouble in the community where they live, and an all out race war bubbles to the surface,

throwing age-old prejudices out into the open. The young couple is torn apart in the ensuing chaos, and the Brooklyn dude spends lots of time in this old ramen restaurant wondering how to get, keep, and maintain The Woman He Loves. Her friends and family, meanwhile, employ every tactic and means at their disposal to destroy and otherwise create mayhem for her, all the while trying to convince her that they are acting in her best interest. Yeah, right, so why doesn’t it feel that way? Innocence is lost. Exactly like our fair city of Nagoya, the location of the film’s setting has an international cast of characters, Russians, Americans, Aussies, Brits, Brazilians, Africans, Persians, Filipinos, etc. The gang’s all here.. At film’s end, everyone learns some kind of vague lesson about tolerance and acceptance and the importance of community and creativity and there’s even some silly “love conquers all” theme running throughout the story. J7 calls it “Romeo and Juliet meets Crash”, I can buy that, throw in a little “Lost In Translation” and maybe “The Wanderers” and that’s the flick. (I also call it “What if Beat Takeshi was American, But Still Made Yakuza Movies.”--Ed.) Can’t divulge the ending but I swear, it’s coming soon to a theater near you, killer soundtrack and all. Submit songs if you have any. Know any producers? Directors? Anyone with a camera? Let’s make this movie and we can all become famous millionaires and then we can buy a big house with a two-car garage out in Owariasahi and live happily ever after..

Hell, ain’t we supposed to be there already though? Where’s the money for that supposed to come from, and wait... Can’t we already get to Tokyo pretty fast on the regular Shink? What do we need to get to TOKYO that quick for anyway? I’d rather have Meitetsu build something where I can get to Utsumi in 15 minutes from Mei-eki during summertime... You would too if you saw some of the Goodness that is summer at Utsumi beach. What are they gonna do with the Tokaido Shinkansen when the Chuo Super-MagLev-Fast-O-Matic Shinkansen opens? Replace it with a moving sidewalk? This is Japan... It’s gonna get replaced with the transporter off the Enterprise from Star Trek. Beam me the F up, Scottie, there’s no sign of intelligent life ‘round these parts... In this issue, we’ve got Japanese Cops, sex workers, insane people, a dude who lives in a Denny’s, RAN ZOO and Blanka (no-- not from StreetFighter). What more do you want really? Romance? Diplomacy? (No! I want a damn speeder-bike!) Welcome to Issue Number 3 of Ran Magazine. Peace and Blessings. tdh & jlg

Future Trippin’
Yo-- Did you also notice, its 20- TEN? No more sayin’ “it’s the year 2K__” or “two-thousand___ “ for the year... Wow... Twenty-Ten... So where the hell are the flying cars, why can’t I vacation on the moon, why isn’t my best friend an alien from Jupiter... When can I hop aboard the Discovery and argue with HAL about opening the damn pod-bay doors, and when can I jump on a speeder bike on the third moon of Endor and party with those fuzzy, lovable Ewoks? Hell this is Japan, so I’d guess we’re one step closer than the rest of the world in doing any of that... After all, they’re goin’ ahead with plans to build the Super-Shinkansen-- Nagoya to Tokyo in 1 hour flat. Coming in Twenty Twenty-Five or so... Publisher: TD Houchen Chief Editor: Jason L. Gatewood Photography Editor: Achim Runnebaum Design team: Adrien Sanborn Adam Pasion Send story ideas to: Send photography and illustration to: To advertise, contact: Promotional Events/Co-Promotion:

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December 2009 / January 2010 - ISSUE NO. 3


14 26 28 30

The Pursuit of Jappiness

Take a walk on the wild side with your favorite J girl personalities

Sex With A Stranger

Interview with a health club worker

Know Your Rights

When Japanese cops stop foreign residents

Down And Logged Out
A look at net-cafe refugees


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Foreword Profiles

20 Listen

Shooting Blanka

Gaijin Superstar

24 Should I Stay or Should I Go

Deadly’s Tips
A man’s house is her castle

Memories for Ray Charles

10 12 When In Rome 18 Create
Cancer By The Carton

The Green Spot

33 RAN Recommends 35 RAN ZOO 34 Taste
We couldn’t get away with saying shit like this, but animals can.

If we eat it, see it, listen to it, buy it, go to it, and we love it, then we think you will too.

A guide to Adaptability Nagoya transformed through the eyes of Matteo Giachetti

Shinkiro will take care of your warrior’s appetite and give you an outfit to match!



生 き 方
| By the RAN staff |


e, the staff of RAN Magazine, in order to form a more perfect ex-pat community, do humbly take up the burden of airing out both yours and our DIRTY LAUNDRY, in our own rag no less. We’d like to think we all are thinking like this, about our lives in Japan, our existence in a society that is in most ways a total 180º from the societies and cultures we were raised in. So what is it about this exotic place that beckoned to us in the first place? And once here in the bosom of Lady Japan, did the wild romp in the hay turn to wedded bliss or did she decide we were more trouble than we’re worth and turn us out into some back alley... Or maybe WE are the ones that eventually grow tired of her quirks, and in finally acknowledging them, are looking for an exit faster than Neo did in the Matrix. Hmmm... We wanted to interview random passers-by but you guys turned out to be a bunch of chicken-hearts so we decided to turn the gun on ourselves for a change.... Trevor: What is your reason for being in Japan? Achim: I came over because I was really interested in the Japanese culture. Then I went to bed one day and I woke up about four years later and I am still here. Adrien: Well basically I met my wife in America, and that is more or less the end of the story. And I also always wanted to learn another language, and I’ve always been interested in Japanese, so that’s it. Adam: I got married in America, and when my wife got pregnant and wanted to have a baby, we came out here to have the baby close to her family and I haven’t found a good enough reason to go home yet. Jason: Escape is part of it. I’ve always been interested in Japanese culture and as a kid, when we moved to Los Angeles, it was my form of escaping

family problems and escaping teenage angst in general, throwing all of my concentration into this completely different culture that was so very opposite to my kind of ghetto-fabulous, West Coast, Los Angeles upbringing. I just knew I wanted to try living in Japan, because I associated, everything that was happy and nice, rainbows and ponies, with being over here. Trevor: I came over here because I was looking for a job. I found a job teaching English in a newspaper in LA, applied for the job, got the job and I was on an airplane a month later. No special interest in Japan, didn’t know a damn thing about it. Trevor: What do you think are the best characteristics of living in Japan or Nagoya. Achim: Safety. I think Japan is still one of those countries where you can go shopping, and you can leave your groceries on your bike and go into a store and when you come out of that store they’re still gonna’ be on your bike. Jason: Where do you live? Once when I lived in Osaka, my buddy went into a Family Mart for about twenty seconds, just long enough to buy an onigiri or something. And we had gone used CD shopping earlier... When we came out the bike was still there, even the plastic bag was there, but the CDs were gone. G-A-W-N. Achim: I’ve never heard anything like that in Nagoya Adrien: One time I had my french toast stolen out of my bike. Achim: I guess they were hungry. Adrien: I was biking around and I had a bite of some crappy french toast, and I left it in my basket. When I came back it was gone. Adam: I had my dignity stolen once. Jason: You didn’t have any dignity to take.

Achim: The other thing I like about Japan is that at least on the surface, people here still really respect each other. I mean in the sense that the customer service is unmatched in the world. Trevor: I completely disagree. I think the customer service here sort of sucks. I mean after we order our food here, count how many times she comes over and asks us if everything is okay. That is part of customer service? Adam: That might be cultural though. Trevor. But that’s what we are talking about, culture. Adrien: In my area [in America] if you go to a grocery store, they treat you like a pariah at the counter, if they even make eye contact you’re impressed. But here they at least say something. My convenience store they are always smiling and bubbly, even if its three o’clock at night. Its like “irashaimase!” Jason: I have to agree with the customer service thing, that impressed me. In the States you go to McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken and they might run out of hamburgers or chicken. Its happened to me many times. It’s on the menu and I say “yes, I’d like a quarter pounder with cheese,” and they say “well, we don’t have any quarter pounders.” “Okay, well can I just get a double cheeseburger?” and they are like “well we don’t do that either.” and its like, “well why is it on the damn menu?” Trevor: That’s in the states? Jason: That’s in the states. Trevor: Y’all are living in different states. That has never, ever happened to me, but it happens constantly to me here. Convenience stores, restaurants, McDonald’s, I have never been to any place in America where they ran out of anything. Jason: You’ve never been to Popeye’s Chicken where they were like “I’m sorry, we don’t have anymore chicken.”? Trevor: No dude. What?! What are

6 |RAN|

you talking about? *truth is, I never ate Popeye’s much back home --pub. *that’s ‘cause you ain’t really black.--ed. Jason: Wow.....Just wow! Adrien: I was realizing something the other day when I was in the convenience store. I’m always super nice to the folks, you know I try to talk to them, but no one will ever talk to you in a convenience store. Adam: They keep an appearance of having good service and stuff but they don’t actually, probably give a shit. Trevor: I don’t think its good service at all Achim: I disagree with that Adrien: No one is ever genuinely nice Achim: I think they are if you get to know them. If you go to the same convenience store over and over again they are super nice. Trevor: Do you guys think its easy to assimilate in Japan? Adam: I think its impossible. Jason: It’s totally impossible. Achim: You can become comfortable in the culture, but you will never be accepted as a complete equal. Adam: You will always be considered a foreigner. There are good and bad aspects to being a foreigner but that will never go away. Trevor: What’s different about Nagoya now than when you first arrived here? Achim: Before the Expo you would walk down the street in Sakae and maybe once a week you would see another foreigner like yourself. Now you walk down the street and everyday you see ten or twenty. Trevor: What do you think is accountable for so many more foreigners coming to Nagoya? Achim: I think specifically Nagoya was exposed to the international scene more after the expo. Adrien: Another thing about Nagoya is that the center of Toyota’s international business is now Midland Square. Trevor: If you had to say Nagoya has a certain characteristic, for example Tokyo is cosmopolitan, busy, crowded, what adjectives would you use to describe Nagoya? Adam: I think Nagoya is like that youth pastor that everyone knew that tried to act really cool and hip, but actually had really old conservative ideas in his head. Jason: I think so too. Adrien: If I were to use an analogy I

might say rusty gears. They move slowly. Jason: I would say ‘perpetrator-ville.’ or ‘faker-ton’ or ‘pseudo-town.’ Trevor: Nobody said anything positive. What makes you stay? Jason: It’s where my job is. Adam: Actually I really like Nagoya. Achim: I think Nagoya is one of the easiest places for foreigners to live. Its not too big, its not to small, its centrally located Adam: Nagoya is calm compared to other places. Jason: Well I have had the experience of living in both Tokyo and Osaka, and now Nagoya. I will say Nagoya is certainly the easiest city to live in in terms of getting around and saving money. When you live in a metropolis like Tokyo, you may get lost in the shuffle. You spend a lot of time and money just trying to go from one place to the next. Here in Nagoya, its big enough so that it is more than just a bump in the road for concerts to stop at. Secondly, there are actually enough gaijin here doing something to make a difference and have an active nightlife or put some cultural diversity on the map. And third, if you get pissed-off, you can jump on the train and be in either Tokyo or Osaka in two or three hours. Trevor: What would you consider to be the pinnacle of your success here in Japan? Everyone: RAN Magazine. Trevor: What would you like to see RAN develop into? Achim: Its a positive force to try and bring the art community in Nagoya together. Adam: I want it to be something that gets people’s asses in gear, I want RAN Magazine to be the magazine that makes people realize that there are things to do in this city other than just going to The Hub every fucking weekend. We all have different skills, almost nobody who is in Japan decided “I want to come here and be an English teacher.” You know we all trained in school to do something different. I want us to find ways to use our skills and abilities and things we like to do, and not be pigeon-holed. Adrien: RAN needs to send the message that you can be a foreigner in this country and not just a teacher. Adam: There is a glass ceiling here that we don’t have to obey. We can create opportunities for ourselves. Nagoya is knowable and its doable. If you say “yeah I know Tokyo,” that’s like saying

“yeah I know the internet.” There is too much to process. But with Nagoya, you can carve a niche for yourself and say this is where I belong and this is what I do. Trevor: Where do you see Nagoya in five years? Ten years from now? Jason: I’ve only been here [in Nagoya] for one year, but I have seen Nagoya seem to struggle to be bigger than it is. Its gonna take change on both sides. I see the universities for example, trying to get their stuff in gear. Aichi University and Meijo University have their international programs, and I also see the companies that are based here like Toyota, even some of the smaller companies are trying to put some diversity and international programs on the list. What’s gonna have to change is the random, everyday, Nagoya person that was born here and lives somewhere like Midori-ku and rarely sees anybody foreign. Achim: If you take Nagoya four years ago and compare it to Nagoya now, you see more change. Trevor: What does the term Gaijin Superstar mean to you? Does it sound positive or negative? Adam: It doesn’t sound positive to me. I think of somebody like Mr. Big or something like that. I think of somebody who made it here and didn’t make it at home. Achim: I think gaijin superstar to me has a positive meaning. A Gaijin Superstar is somebody who comes over here, who creates a niche for themselves and who does what they do without making apologies, without trying to fit-in. I mean they fit-in enough that they don’t offend anybody or anything like that, but the point where they are comfortable with who they are living in this place. Jason: When we first brought-up the title gaijin superstar the first image that popped into my mind was Jero. This is somebody who came over here, and obviously he wanted to sing ever since he was a kid and he decided, “my grandmother taught me these enka songs, I am gonna see if I can do that over in Japan.” and maybe it was a novelty at first but now he’s respected. Adrien: I gotta tell you something that occurred to me. I came to Japan and I started learning the language and I thought I should adapt to the ideas and to the way people understand things, and after a while I found, using the language is fine but I found these cultural, social

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hindrances that they have themselves locked-into. I found it so oppressive, so one day I just said “fuck it. I’m American, I’m just gonna be American, but I will use the language. Even in the language though, there are little things meant to tie you in and lock you down. Achim: I would say Japanese society is very compartmentalized even in it’s language. The first part to learning a culture is learning their language because the very mechanics of that language were forged by the social issues of that time while that culture was being born. Adam: Modern Japan is a really new country. Trevor: Would you say Japan is experiencing a kind of identity crisis? Adam: They were in isolation for hundreds of years, and even now it’s slow going. Trevor: Would you say there are any countries that have an easier time assimilating to Japanese culture? Achim: Being German I have to say, I know the cultures are very similar as far as punctuality is concerned, and they way they think about things. Trevor: I am still having a really hard time acclimating myself to Japanese culture. Coming from New York City with the ridiculous diversity there and everyone screaming at the top of their lungs to make their place in the world. You know, it’s a stifling society and some people don’t want to be stifled forever and I am one of those people. Adam: But Japan is safe, and the fact that Japan is safe has absolutely nothing to do police, or the legal system. It has to do with that whole mentality of never going against the flow. There are no rubbish bins on the street but there is also no litter on the street, for example. Trevor: The stuff that I don’t dig is the stuff that on a broader basis is what keeps us here. Jason: What do you think you should work on to make life easier in Japan? Achim: Learn the language. Trevor: I am still learning and trying my best to be more Japanese I guess. One of the reasons I got divorced is because I was so tied to the person that New York city created, that my wife didn’t want to fuck with that dude after a while. Learning the language is more mechanical, but the other stuff is more

internal, spiritual and psychological, and that is what I am trying to do. Achim: That is one of the great points about living here is you can really find out who you are inside. Jason: You know, this is the part of the world where I found out exactly who I really am. Some people get here and right away they are like, “aww man, ‘F’ this place.” but I was the exact opposite. People kept telling me, “you’re just in your honeymoon period. After about two or three months you’re gonna crash.” It took me like two years to crash, and the thing that finally made me crash was something so simple. It was the fact that I couldn’t get any Taco Bell. I walked into a place that had tacos and there was mayonnaise on my taco, and I lost it. Don’t get so ingrained in this culture that you forget what it is that you liked about your own culture and always have something that you can take with you that’s a little bit of home. Achim: I think my advice for somebody coming over here is don’t get trapped into the negativity. Go out of your comfort zone and really try to explore the country, explore the people and really try to find yourself and your own opinions instead of having those opinions forced on you by others. Jason: You are here to get away from whatever kept you complacent at home right? You’ve got this explorer mentality and the explorer’s life is tough. You’re over here so you need to toughen up a little bit. Adam: It’s really frustrating to hang-out with Japanese people who don’t speak any English but that is the best thing you can do. You work with what you’ve got – you’ve got a little bit of Japanese, they have a little bit of English, you get drunk and start saying what you know how to say, and you start communicating as human to human without worrying about anything else. Trevor: If you could go back in your history and do something differently since your arrival in Japan, what would you do differently? Adam: I would have gone and checked out all the clubs and live houses I wanted to go to. Trevor: I would go back and learn the language. I’d start learning the language upon first arrival, and I would travel more. Achim: If you force yourself to step-out, on your day off or something, just force

yourself to get on the train, it changes your whole perspective on Japan. Jason: What I would do differently is not concentrate so much on the small stuff. I would like to just go back in time and tell myself to lighten-up. Trevor: Do you think Nagoya is a romantic city? Jason: Huh?!...No! Achim: Not really. There are romantic places but you have to look hard to find them. Adam: Every once in a while, and nobody knows why it happens, but every once in a while out of the blue, a scene occurs. Like a scene forms itself and nobody can explain it. It becomes a focal point, and for some reason everybody there just turns on, and connects to that even though nobody knows why. Potentially Nagoya could do that. Achim: There is so much potential here. Trevor: Abso-fucking-lutely. Jason: Nagoya doesn’t have any identity yet. Adam: Nagoya hasn’t been put on the map yet. Trevor: There are so many people who can do so many diverse things who want something to happen. Achim: I think that is our mission. We are at the forefront of Nagoya. I think we can really bring people together here and make them realize what you are talking about. Adam: There is no formula, it’s different every time. There is no saying who or what the catalyst will be, but it could be a magazine. Jason: Just hyping it up, eh? Trevor: Final comments? Adam: Get off your ass Nagoya. Get off your ass and go out and do something cool. Achim: Find your identity. Find out who you are and make your voice heard. Jason: Don’t hate, innovate. As far as RAN is concerned if you think you can do something better don’t hate on it or us, but put out your own thing and make it better than us. Trevor: Do something interesting and think “community.” Adrien: Don’t be afraid to ask. Jason: Use your own brain. Achim: Stop separating and start uniting. Jason: Everyone get in gear, get coordinated, lets synchronize our thoughts and our minds and lets go in the same direction.

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Deadly’s Tips
恋 愛 関 係

A Man’s House Is Her Castle


| By Deadly D |

his can be stated simply and directly. In most cultures, the man is the king at home. He always knows that no matter how degrading it is to get ordered around by the boss’s nephew all day at work, when he comes home at night, he will be greeted as provider, hero, and handed the remote control to the TV in open acknowledgment that he is paying the cost to be the boss. In Japanese culture, the wife makes every, and I mean EVERY, major decision about the house, the kids, the furniture and the family dog. The husband is not expected to be a player in the daily family drama except as a money-making machine that delivers pay checks and then doesn’t hang around much. A couple in an international relationship needs to work this one out from the very beginning or they’re headed for a mine field that not even Angelina Jolie can clear out.


Pachinko first became really popular in Japan when housewives in big cities like Osaka and Tokyo told their husbands not to come home until after 11:00 at night and they had put the kids to bed. The wives literally would not allow their husbands in the door before they were done dealing with the kids. No wonder those salary men look so tired and stressed.


環 境


G reen


| Story and photo by Achim Runnebaum |




people falsely believe) biodegradable. The filters are made of a type of acetate that never fully breaks down. Smoking contributes to global warming by releasing 22 million net tons of CO2 in the atmosphere directly and indirectly through the tobacco manufacturing process. 600 million trees are felled and burned annually to dry and cure tobacco leaves. If you continue to smoke, there’s a very high probability that you will die from a smoking-related illness. Smoking causes premature aging of the skin, particularly in women, and has been linked to a decreased sperm count in men. So the question then becomes, why do people choose to be slaves to their own addiction? When asked “Why do you smoke?” some common answers are “because it’s cool” (so that means that the old guy sitting by himself in a bar smoking up a storm and coughing his


ou see them everywhere in Japan - In restaurants, in bars, on the street, and even on top of Mt. Fuji. No, I’m not talking about beautiful Japanese women wearing high heels; I’m talking about smokers. Japan is a smoker’s heaven and a non-smoker’s hell. Whereas in most other developed countries around the world, smoking has been banned in all public places, especially in restaurants, it seems that in Japan it’s still as much part of the culture as sushi and manga. It’s actually so socially accepted in Japan that nobody (it seems) thinks twice about the impact it has on their lives and those around them. Please note that I’m not trying to stop you from smoking or tell you that it’s bad for you - you know that already. These are some facts that no matter which way you slice them, they are still true. I know most smokers think that either they can stop before they get cancer or

that somehow miraculously they will be spared the horrors of having to live with cancer; not to mention the harm they cause to others. It really boggles my mind that a smoker asked me if it was OK to light up right next to me, and seemed shocked when I replied with “Is it OK to fart in your face?” Seriously, what’s the difference? Oh yeah, passing gas doesn’t release nearly as many harmful chemicals..... Even if smokers don’t want to acknowledge the negative effects they know these facts in the back of their minds but perhaps feel it is impossible to change. It is this suppression and denial of the truth that keeps most people smoking. Well, if you must smoke then here are the true unchangeable facts about smoking and how it affects the environment you should know:

2 3 4


It takes approximately 12 years for a cigarette butt to disintegrate, releasing harmful chemicals into the ground. They are not (as so many

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lungs out is cool ?) “It relieves stress” (so does chewing gum by releasing a chemical which relaxes your body. It is also much healthier for you, those around you, the environment, and not to mention your teeth), “I just can’t stop” (it’s all about mental strength; are you admitting you’re a mental wimp?), Everybody is doing it, and it’s the cool thing to do (with the widespread use of tobacco nowadays, wouldn’t it be cooler to really do something unique instead of just being a follower?) “all my friends are doing it and they won’t accept me if I don’t smoke” (This excuse hasn’t worked since Kindergarten. You’re an adult now, you can make your own decisions; you gonna let your friends live your life for you?) The problem is fear and not thinking about your actions and taking responsibility not only for your own life, but also for the lives of people around you. It’s easy to make excuses; anybody can do that. That’s right, the fear of change, of doing something new is greater than the instinct for survival and preservation. Now, some of you might immediately argue that certain smokers have enjoyed a long, fulfilled life. While that may or may not be true, take the number of people who were, or still are affected either directly or indirectly by the effects of smoking and compare. I think you’ll soon see the staggering difference in number. If all this factual information has made you think and maybe you’re considering quitting, then you’ll face one of the toughest challenges in your life - quitting for good. Here’s some food for thought: While it’s easy to give up (quitting) and fall back on old habits, there are also many negative feelings that accompany such a fallback. The feeling of failure, or the feeling of not being able to follow through on your plans (to quit). Personally, I think the benefits of quitting and knowing that you really made it, far outweigh the feelings you get when you smoke. So to help you, here are some websites with more information about smoking and how to quit. General Information: Statistics: Quitting: If you continue to smoke and think all this is just a bunch of hogwash, just ask yourself this question: How is smoking improving your life and the lives of those around you? Write down some positive and negative points (be brutally honest). If the negatives outweigh the positives, then be strong, face up, and vow to make a change in yourself for the better. With the new year coming up, this is as good a time as any to make a change for the better in the coming year....

When In Rome
郷 に 入 れ ば

| By Andrew Sekeres III |
aving problems at your workplace or at home? Dealing with non-responsive or confrontational relationships? Do you have a hard time fitting in? If you are currently dealing with any of these problems, you are not alone. Whether you are at work or drinking with friends at a bar or going shopping, you will find these situations everywhere. This is especially true when you are living abroad. Whether you are newbie or a lifer, this article is for you.


them due to many issues, for instance gaping language barriers and differences in social norms and mannerisms. This is especially true when living in Japan. Japanese customs and norms can be completely foreign from what you are used to in your home country. Also, the Japanese language can be a barrier when dealing with everyday situations that you may come across. Furthermore, we are always confronted with the notion that we are foreigners living here, and

the comfort level that you once had when they were closer. The language barriers, the new social norms and mannerisms that you come across, and the long distance between you and your family and friends can be overwhelming at first and will eventually lead to some sort of culture shock. Culture shock can happen to anybody from a newbie who just landed and started his or her new job, to that of a lifer who may even have a spouse and children in tow. Even though the lifer might be here longer, they, also, can and will deal with some type of culture shock. How do we overcome it? There are many ways to confront culture shock, from simply acknowledging that you are living in a foreign country. However the peril can come when one wonders if they’re going to be here for just a short time or possibly for the rest of their life and accepting the new culture as their own. This is the one of the hardest choices that you must decide in your life. Plus it’s magnified when living

Living in a foreign land can be difficult at times, but you will find out that the various experiences and people that you meet on everyday basis will help you in the long run. If we work on self-realization and being adaptable to new situations, we can begin to persevere through these rough situations and then begin to enjoy life abroad. When individuals begin to live in a foreign country, they will come across many situations that can be daunting for

as foreigners, we are told that we can never fully be accepted into Japanese society
as foreigners, we are told that we can never fully be accepted into Japanese society. Plus when living abroad, you are away from your established social networks that you had when you were living in your native country. Family and friends are farther away then you realize. Even with the internet and tools like Facebook, Myspace, Skype and more, you do not have the immediate access and

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in a culture that stresses a group identity over the individual; most western customs stress the individual. Overcoming this obstacle successfully takes time, patience, and most importantly, an understanding of who we are as a person. We must go through the process of self-realization and finally, adaptability. What is self-realization and how is different from self-awareness? Selfawareness is defined as one’s awareness of psychological and physical needs. Being aware of one’s self is an important step in our lives, but first we must realize who we are. Realizing is stronger and more visceral then just simply being

aware. Self-realization can be daunting task because it doesn’t happen overnight. It comes by having and learning through one’s experiences. Through experiencing many new things like living in a foreign country, learning new ideas and languages, seeing and hearing many new points of view, and talking with different individuals, we begin to see who we really are. To go further into the process of selfrealization, we must contemplate and think about what we are doing right now. We must ask ourselves: are we really living our own lives? We must think about our endgame: What do we want, and how do we get it. We must decide what is important in our own life. Are we accomplishing the goals that we set out for ourselves? After realizing and seeing what is important in our own life, we must then find some way to include other individuals in our lives. We must be

adaptable in order to find room in our life for these individuals and their ideas. How do we achieve adaptability in our lives? Adaptability comes from being openminded and being willing to listen and discuss ideas with people. This can be very hard when you are living abroad. When living in foreign country like Japan, we must become more openminded and be ready to listen to many different people and their ideas. If you are a closed-minded individual, life here can be more difficult. However if you’re able to listen to many people, then the situation becomes easier to more clearly find a solution to the problem. Mastering adaptability takes time, patience, and effort. We must first realize who we are and what kind of person we truly are. We have to decide how openminded and diverse we are in our ways of thinking. After that, become openedminded and be ready to listen. Only then can our true selves be heard.

|RAN| 13


| By TD Houchen |


ack on the dating scene again, and it still sucks. A lot of these Japanese girls need a serious attitude adjustment, or at least a firm talking to. Too many foreign guys are acting like wet paper towels by letting these girls get away with too much nonsense, and I know you know what I am talking about. Social conventions and cultural characteristics aside, these chicks are pissing me off.. Single exactly 3 months, I am fed up. ‘Sumimasen’ your damn self. Act right. Male/female relationships are hard enough as it is. We’re from Mars, they’re from Venus, or who knows really where women are from. It’s hard to get together, like my man Deadly says, throw in the different cultures and different expectations and look out she’s about to blow!! No, I don’t mean it like that. Get your head out of the gutter. Look. I am no Prince Charming. In fact, some of my exes want me dead. But at least they want me. Japanese women seem to feel they have no obligation whatsoever to stick to plans, call when they say they will, be where they said they’d be, explain why they came on so strong upon first meeting you, and then suddenly vanishing into the mist, be clear about their intentions even remotely, or explain any of their actions or non-actions or anything they’ve said, nor, any of their hints, guesses or behavior. I had one girl tell me there was a cockroach in her room, this was a cue for me to come over and be romantic with her, I should have known, would you have? This was after she had broken it off with me. Ne. Mind reading in Japanese? Come on man. I’m learning, but I blew that one. JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT. So, I’ve compiled a short list of certain “characters” in order for you to identify who it is you’re dealing with at any given time. I’m sure there are a thousand others, this is my list, if you’ve got more, send them in and we’ll print them up, or at least, throw them up on the website. For the record, I’m not saying us foreign guys are perfect. Far from it, most of us are juvenile delinquents posing as English teachers, there, I said it, but for the most part, we’re simple, we’re just not smart enough to come up with all the games and oddball tactics it seems these J-Girls display, we want hot ramen and that’s about it. Capiche?

Hey boy take a walk
on the

wild side..
-Lou Reed

The English-Champion Hamster


Come on, you’ve met her. She approaches you eagerly, “…hi, I’m Tomoko/Atsuko/Yuko/ Junko/Pluto…”, whatever, (ever notice no Japanese girls’ names start with “B”? or “Q”? or “X”? What’s with that?)—“..nice to meet you..”, she says. She’s all bright and bubbly, like a glass of Nihonjin pink champale, genki beyond belief. She speaks English, or so you think. You chat her up a bit, exchange info, and set a date to meet again. You hook up with The English Champion, only to discover that on your FIRST MEETING, she exhausted her supply of limited English, and YOU’RE HER NEW TEACHER. You spend the entire evening explaining your every word and gesturing like a madman and asking and answering questions like, “what food do you like “ over and over again. You realize you’re just teaching elementary school, and wonder why you aren’t getting paid for it. Sure, she’s cute, but then again, so are hamsters, and you don’t date hamsters do you? It’s frustrating, and you fell for it. Next time, upon first meeting, find out her English level by bringing along a game of Scrabble wherever you go, sure it’s bulky, but it works. Grade C minus. (Or C plus, if you’ve got the patience.)

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The Keitai Queen
You hate her, but you like her. Maybe, you can’t remember. You met her like, 3 months ago. Sparks, or something akin to sparks, flew at that first meeting. You excitedly exchanged info. You’ve been emailing back and forth now for what seems like eternity. You can barely remember what she looks like anymore. Your fingers hurt. You’ve asked her to meet you out in person 3 hundred and forty eight times already. She doesn’t acknowledge your requests, or always cancels that same day. You know you’re acting like a complete moron, but you don’t care. You simultaneously cringe and get excited every time your phone alerts you that she’s mailed you yet again. She won’t stop, and, like P Diddy, you can’t stop/won’t stop yourself.. It’s driving you crazy, but she seems to relish the whole drawn out, useless, empty, maddening and brain-frying cyber-romance you’re having. You mail her immediately after receiving her mails, but she takes hours, sometimes days to mail you back. You crave those mails, and as much as you hate them, you know it’s all you’ll ever get from her, and you need them. Just when you think she won’t ever mail you again, your stupid phone lights up, letting you know she’s hooked you back into it one more time. You hate her, but you need her. Grade D minus. Face it, she’ll never meet you, or she would have already, give it up man. Get a new keitai email address.

The Unexamined Soul
Look, I’m no genius, but at least I know what I like. I’ve been out with too many women here who, upon you asking, “..what food do you like..”, which itself is a silly question, or, “..what music do you like..”, or, “..what do you like doing..”, I get that infamously annoying, “..ehhhhhhhhhhh?”, as if the thought never entered their minds. I mean, it leaves me wondering what exactly to Japanese dudes talk about with Japanese women? I know they aren’t discussing politics or philosophy. Come on J-girls, you don’t know what food you like? Are you serious? What tastes good in your mouth? What do you find yourself eating often? JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION, is it really so hard? Please, let’s not even get into more difficult questions like, “..what are your dreams..”, I can see bubbles coming out of their ears for questions like this. Grade C plus or B. They can be opened up and taught, there’s hope for these women.

The Klingon
She’s there when you need her, and she’s there when you don’t. She calls you incessantly, and will-not –leave-you-alone. Your friends are wondering if you’ve grown a new body-part, but no, it’s just your girlfriend. You wonder how she ever had a life without you, she seems to live, breathe, eat, think, speak and dream you and only you. She is crowding out your hobbies, friends, and your oxygen. She gives new meaning to the song “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”. She shows up at the most inopportune times and is a bit like a rash. She’s up under you 24-7 and it’s KILLING YOU. She stands so close to you that sometimes you step on her, or accidentally elbow her in her nose or neck, which of course, she doesn’t mind. She’s reading this over your shoulder right now, you couldn’t get rid of her if you were a murderer, but you’re thinking about it.. Grade C minus or D. Some guys like this kind of thing..go figure.

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The Superflake
The following is a true story. A friend of mine was seeing a J-girl for a short while. Things were going smoothly, or sort of smoothly anyway. One day, they’re having a phone conversation, J-girls English wasn’t great, and so, Our Hero asked politely, “..excuse me, can you speak up a bit? I can’t really hear you…”, to which, J-girl responded, “..what? You know what, I don’t think this is working out, I think we should stop seeing each other..”, and promptly hung up and never called Our Hero again. Huh? How about this one; another friend recently told me about a girl who absolutely freaked out because he didn’t like hot sauce. I kid you not. Fickle much? Then there are the women who, in the beginning, find you attractive because you are foreign, but, 3 or 4 months into the relationship, they’re imploring you to “ more Japanese..”, “..learn more Japanese..”, or openly insulting your home country and culture, those very things that brought you together in the first place. In the immortal words of Ralph Kramden, “ the moon Alice, to the moon..” Grade F. You can do nothing right with these women. Run. Fast. Far. Now.

The Disappearing Act
You know her, or at least you thought you did. Things were going great, or at least, again, you thought they were. It’s happened too many times to count since I’ve been here. Meet a woman, share some (what you think and what seems to be) great times. Everything you’ve done together, she’s been a willing and eager participant. She’s never registered one iota of reservation about anything you’ve suggested, never uttered a word of discontent or dissatisfaction, never even frowned. You’ve been having a great time with her, so why has she suddenly vanished? Won’t return my calls, won’t return my mails, she’s disappeared into the mist. What. The. Hell. This, alas, is a typical J-girl move which could mean one of any number of things. It could mean she liked you, but didn’t like you that much. It could mean she liked you too much, and got scared of her own feelings, and so instead of dealing with it, she decided to just let it go, it would never fit with the neatly prescribed life that her society has ordained her to have (!). It could mean she noticed a piece of spinach in your teeth one day after dinner, and just couldn’t handle it. It could mean she was only spending time with you to get back at her husband/family/boyfriend/job/friends/etc, and now, she’s sufficiently done her duty and it’s time for her to move on. It could mean she was recalled back to the factory for upgrades and improvements. Who knows really. But one thing is clear, she is GONE AND NOT COMING BACK. Grade F. How can you have a relationship with an invisible person?

The Decepticon
Damn, she’s fine! Or better spoken, she appears to be fine. In all my years I have never met a woman better at self-improvement with make up, clothes, accessories and curling irons than The Japanese Woman. These women sure know how to work with what they have, and, what they don’t have. False eyelashes, smothered on foundation, hair attachments, fake nails and painted on eyebrows, man, everyday is Halloween here! She’s painted, padded, plucked, polished, packaged and prepared. Case in point: You get her home, and you’re rounding the bases. First base! Nice kiss, the lipstick comes off, but it’s all good, all women wear lipstick, but why is her skin suddenly two different tones? –and where did that other eyelash go? Weird.. Second base, uh, well, a padded bra? Hm. Well, I guess it’s okay, but damn, I didn’t know they made padded bras this padded. Third base, hm, the plot thickens-she seemed like she weighed at least a little more than a 9 year old boy when she had clothes on, didn’t she? This is becoming interesting, headed home, and you realize, wait a minute, is this the same person I was with a few hours ago? It’s like unwrapping a mummy, she’s almost not even there anymore! The deed is done, and you wake up the next morning wondering who is this person laying next to me and how did she get into my house? Grade B. You can make it work, as long as you’re flexible, and, many times, these women have great personalities to make up for their, uh, lack in other departments. Plus, she looks great out in public.

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The Bi
It seemed like a really good idea. She liked beautiful women and so do you. She had an insatiable sex drive and so do you. She wanted to have an open relationship and so do you. She was adventurous and outdoorsy and liberated and sensual and so infuriatingly annoying you wanted to kill her with your bare hands. What were you thinking man? A bi-sexual Japanese girl? Really? Take all the hang-ups and issues a straight J-girl has, and multiply them by a thousand. Thought your straight girlfriend was flaky, finicky, weird, and more than a little touched? Man, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Imagine a woman taking a few dozen extra estrogen pills everyday. What might be the outcome? We can only imagine, better yet, don’t. A bi J-girl? HA. Grade D. The first few months are exhilarating, followed by another few months of pure emotional and mental hell. Imagine a relationship with a cat, or 12 cats.

The Forever-An-Adolescent-But-She’sAlso-Completely-Unavailable
She loves Disney a little too much. She’s got Goofy and Mickey and half a dozen other small furry things dangling from her keitai. She makes funny faces and uses baby talk and all her clothes are some shade of pink. She giggles every time you touch her and she still lives at home with her parents, her grandparents, her cute dog, (whom she shows you a picture of every single time you get together), and she shares a bedroom with her 12 year old brother. She has an 11 o’clock curfew, and she works 7 days a week, plus she volunteers at the local animal shelter. She lives in Gifu, but has no car. Her best friend is her friend from first grade and they go EVERYWHERE together, and, they dress exactly alike. She likes anime, but not the good kind, she’s into Cinderella and Lilo and Stitch. She celebrates Mickey Mouse’s birthday. She’s cuter than a cupcake, but she won’t let you eat her. Grade C plus. Again, you can make it work, you just have to dumb down a bit, well, more than a bit actually.

The Schizophrenic
This one is dangerous. When you met, you ignored the warning signs, such as the fact that you did it in the bathroom while her boyfriend was at the bar, on the first night you met her. You should have noticed something when you spotted her in the bushes outside your apartment at 4 am. You didn’t really think much of the fact that she told you she was going to take a trip abroad, but you saw her that same week in the grocery store wearing a disguise. You convinced yourself it was normal that she always carries a hunting knife. Well, maybe she hunts…something. It sort of made you think twice when you heard her change her voice while you heard her talking on the phone, and wasn’t she saying something about her “medication”? She’s really nice to you when you are alone with her, but in front of your friends, why is she suddenly so sullen and withdrawn? Wait, is she wearing a holster? I swore I saw her picture at the Post Office the other day, and how come she won’t tell me where she lives? Grade F. Run. Fast. Now. Far.

Not all J-girls fit into these categories, but some do. Know the signs. Be careful out there people. Carry on.

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18 |RAN|

Matteo Giachetti

創 造

| By Nuova Erudita |

Matteo Giachetti
is a photographer, who uses pictures to create his own personal universe of people, events and places. He proceeds as an author behaves with any story and he uses, with extreme boldness, the traditional ingredients of the painting which has an ancient mediterranean root. He could be compared to an old fresconist painter, who compose spectacular sceneries in which the bible stories are conveyed to the audience. But his visionary form is often pervading by the urban and post modern culture because he is mainly a photographer who starts to tell his stories from reality surrounding himself. He is an artist fascinated by the anecdotal datum hidden in the daily nature. The Giachetti’s narration does not need magnificent subjects or extraordinary events to construct its epic; he looks through the things as a dreamer and every things could become spectacular, depending only by his own feeling. In the “Multilayers” artwork all the memories are still superimposed: lights, shapes, colors and signs are going through several steps to express an emotional experience of the world, where every pieces become the author’s intention to built the story. It is like a free jazz concert, where the possibility of narration seems endless and unforeseeable. So what does he want to tell us? Maybe an aspect of a story, that you can remember or that you do not know, but Matteo Giachetti makes you an imagine and sows it inside your soul.

From top-left to bottom-right: Akamon Night View; Who is that man?; Adrift; Osukannon; The Spirit of Shibuya

|RAN| 19


聴 く

he fans and friends have already gathered around waiting for the band to finish setting up. They have thrown off their jackets, done-up their hair and put on their dancing shoes. As the bassist warms up the smiles already break across their faces, which is mirrored on the band members themselves. Everyone seems to be prepared to have a good time, and they wait in anxious anticipation. By the end of the set the floor is slippery from condensed sweat, the exhausted fans look ready to topple over and yet they are crying for more as Blanka exits the stage. Blanka is a band that defies classification. They bend genre, wrap it around themselves and tie it in knots. Within the framework of a single song they switch seamlessly between heavy bass-driven funk jams, catchy electronic pop riffs and ethereal progressive rock guitar solos, and all this without losing the audiences attention for a moment. More than anything else though, Blankais a live experience. If their CD is a great porno, their live show is that hot sticky sex with a stranger in the back of a Volkswagen. The bass thumps so perfectly in synch with the drum falls that you might swear they were linked by the borg, and the guitar flawlessly resonates jams that are so danceable even Steven Hawking would jump out of his motorized chair and bust a move. The catchy vocals will grab your attention and hold it in a choke-hold while the nearly manic spurts of vocals are interspersed with strange space-age sounds. Not your thing? Then go take a nap you boring fucking zombie. Blanka rocks all the usual Nagoya haunts as well as playing shows all over the Mikawa area. A four piece comprised of both Japanese and (a) foreign members the band has the unique ability to run the Japanese and gaijin circuits, and bridge a gap in much need of mending. After a exhaustingly energetic show and several beers, RAN magazine peered in to get a better look at this exciting band.

| By Adam Pasion |

RAN: Alright start off with some self introduction. Please give us your name, instrument and your favorite member of SMAP. A: My name is Angus. Angus Maxwell Fulton Rofe. I play bass. I like Kimu Taku because I think he carries the Japanese yankee style well. He’s like the idol, the leader so he is very powerful man. He’s unique to Japan. T: Vocalist, Arakawa Taichi, or just Taichi. Since Angus already said Kimu Taku I guess I will go with Nakai. He is good at talking so he is interesting to watch. P: I play guitar, my name is Perra. As for me, I like Kusanagi because he loves drinking and so do I. I: Izza, I am the drummer, and I like Katori Shingo because he likes beer. RAN: What is the origin of the name Blanka, and does it have anything to do with Street Fighter? T: It means many things. Before we were playing with a completely different band name, just a sort of throw-away name, and we were like “let’s change it.” I: We wanted something with

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more impact T: So we thought about it for a long time, we thought about it really really hard and came up with about a hundred different patterns for names, so much we didn’t even know what we were talking about anymore. Then by chance the word “blanka” came up once or twice, and we thought it had a nice rhythm to it. It had a good feeling, so we decided to go with Blanka. P: We ruled it down to about three names. T: So there isn’t really any real meaning to it. Then after people asked us about it we started coming up with something to make it cool. You know its sort of close to the English word “blank” which has a nice image to it, like pure white where our sound comes from. Afterward we started to add meaning to it, but the truth is there isn’t really one. I: So basically Street Fighter. its not from

RAN: Is there any band you want to be compared with? T: I don’t really want to be compared to anyone. I want have an original Blanka style. A: We’ve gone through many stages of evolution like most bands, but we started out being compared to the more standard, funk/jam bands. Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but we didn’t really like that. But those were the really early days and since then we haven’t really gotten that. RAN: So what band do you absolutely not want to be compared with? T: I am not sure if there is such a band either, but I guess its more interesting if I mention somebody. I: Red Hot Chili Peppers A: If you do funk music and punk music or rock music, people automatically associate you with the red hot chili peppers. And we are sick of that. I: It’s sort of broad, but J-pop bands. T: As far as genre, for example with “house” music, that sparkly mainstream “house” scene is no good, but the deeper, underground house sound is really cool, so even in our same genre we don’t want to be associated with that really simple and obvious stuff. In Japan even with pop music there is a huge underground world and the major world and some artists are really catchy, but they’re also still really cool. I’d like our band to go into that sort of category. I: Dancing and a good atmosphere with a little bit of the punk spirit. A: The basis is a community rather than four people trying to sell a product. These are our friends and we try to respond to them, so its like a two-way thing rather than us trying to force our own egos. But of course we are very egotistical and pretentious. RAN: How does having foreigners and Japanese together in the band affect the band dynamic? Does it present any particular problems?

T: Naturally in the beginning it was language. Angus speaks English and we all speak Japanese, so it was really hard. Using dictionaries, the Japanese brand of dictionaries called “Genius.” All of us had one, and Angus was studying Japanese. A: But mainly in the early stage it was the music language...its a bit of a stereotype but... T: When we are talking at a jam session, somebody will say for example “play a D chord” or “play a C chord” or maybe say “I think this part from such and such a song on Gang of Four’s album Entertainment is good,” and we can have a conversation like that. So in the beginning we were able to talk about music, from that we started being able to say more and more, we became

RAN: But now when you do play Street Fighter, of course you choose Blanka, right? A: For me first is Chun-Li. I like the way she says “yada, yada.” P: If somebody offers it to one of us at least one of the four of us has to say okay. A: Blanka is kind of a crazy, lion...or what is he, is he a lion man? T: I guess if you think about it that way that is part of our image too. A: We are also planning to coordinate the blanka dance moves (makes blanka noises and swipes at the air) with like a pyrotechnicselectric show. RAN: Your influences seem to be all over the board, and the music doesn’t really fit into any particular genre, so who are you most often compared to? T: We aren’t really compared to anyone. Recently we have our own original thing, there isn’t much else like it.

really close started to understand each others’ language. But early on it was much easier to just talk about music. I: At Taichi’s studio we would talk about music and we liked a lot of the same bands. In the beginning our music was a lot more similar to punk. T: That first place we practiced was at my house in my tiny little attic with no air conditioning. A: Yeah it was like 35 degrees in there, and I thought that was normal. I thought Japanese bands always practice in that kind of heat. But generally because we have a strong

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musical understanding and we have similar interests in music, we don’t usually have a problem. We instinctively connect with the jam sessions which is really good. So in that respect I think other foreign musicians living in Japan who can’t speak Japanese really should go out and just jam with other bands. Its really easy to just pick-up an instrument and just play and don’t worry about talking. RAN: Are there any good points about it? T: At first when people see one of the members is a foreigner they think “wow, this is something out of the ordinary.” It definitely makes a strong impression. But all of us have really strong characters so when the show is over it’s no longer about him being a foreigner, he’s just another member of Blanka. I think Japanese people really like foreigners so at first when Angus was with us people would always ask if we were really going to play together. A: And they thought I would be really good because I am a foreigner. They

a bit confused. There is one reaction where they treat you like a rockstar, “oh he’s like a foreigner coming from England.” Then there is another instinct where you’re just treated as a Japanese person, which is not true as well because you can’t speak perfectly and there are cultural differences. When interacting with the audience I think that is the main difference. As a band I think we are fine. But when I emcee the show there is a really interesting atmosphere. They are all wondering if I am gonna speak in English or Japanese. RAN: How did you all come together as a band? P: Before Angus joined the band, we all went to the same junior high school. When our bassist left we really wanted a new bassist so we put up fliers at clubs and live houses. Angus saw one of the fliers that we had put-up at the Apollo Theater in Shinsakae, in Nagoya. Before Angus joined we had two or three people do support-bass for us but it wasn’t a good match. So we wrote down a bunch of our favorite bands on the flier, even bands that were really minor bands in Japan at the time. We wrote bands like Minor Threat and stuff. So Angus saw that and liked a lot of the same bands so he contacted us. T: But his first contact was by e-mail, and when a Japanese person writes an email all in English its almost always a scammer or some adult site or something. So I was going to erase it, but as I was about to erase it I noticed the word “bass.” So I got out the dictionary, my “genius” dictionary and read the words “let’s play together” or something and I thought, “why is this gaijin asking to join the band?” So I called him and we met for the first time at my house. We couldn’t hold a conversation at all so I said, “okay lets start jamming,” and after our first jam session we were like, okay, this will work. P: In Japan there are a lot of people who are good listeners but they only listen. They listen to a lot of good music but what they play is totally different. But with Angus, he listened to good music and could play lots of styles so we really wanted him to join the band. I: We basically wrote every single band we liked, like an unbelievable amount of bands. Normal recruitment

fliers would never write that much. Honestly we put too many bands. P: Usually they will just write “rock” or something. RAN: Was it anything like your myspace? As I looked at that I saw so many influences and thought some of them were complete opposites, but somehow after watching your live show I can feel those influences come-out. I: There are a lot of people in Japan who only go to live houses and other people who only go to clubs. As for us we go to all of them, we like all of them. P: Its not about number one, but being only one. For example a lot people want to be the number one reggae group, or the number one rock group, but we want to be the only group of our kind. There is only one Blanka. I: It might be difficult for people who listen to pop music to listen to our music, people who listen to pop only. P: But the melody and the vocals are really simple and catchy so I think it can be received by pop listeners. T: I believe its possible to make a song that appeals to both audiophiles and people who listen to only J-pop. There is music that both music nerds and J-pop fans think is cool. I think that is probably the hardest thing to do, but it is absolutely possible. I: Between mainstream underground and

P: Like a gate artist. If you listen to Blanka and say, “hey I like this kind of music.” and then start listening to other kinds of music. For example even with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, if somebody listens to it and says “wow funk music is really cool,” and then they start to discover other, more real types of funk like New Orleans Funk or something. I think Blanka could be like that. RAN: Do you want to be major? T: More than a sense of wanting to be major or not, I think we want to be able to eat by playing the music we like. So yeah I wish this was my main job, but if we became mainstream and then we were told to make more love songs or something I would hate that.

were expecting me to be some sort of genius. But it’s interesting slowly going through the layers of being seen as a foreigner. I think sometimes people get

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If it was like that I wouldn’t want to be mainstream. I: I would still do it though. A: Yeah he is just gonna do a solo drum album of love songs. RAN: Once and for all, is Michael Jackson really dead? T: Its really interesting, this huge star instead of fading out...its like fiction, like some movie or something. I wish I could do that too. But yeah, he’s dead. Totally dead. I: As for me I think he is alive at Neverland Ranch and he has completely changed his face again. A: We could list our favorite dead people, like James Brown, Michael Jackson is great, Elvis, Hiroshiro, that guy who played tiger mask. I: I like Paul McCartney A: He’s not dead! I: Really?! Wrong story RAN: You guys have a new CD coming out, do you want to talk about it? T: This one is really for people who are new to the band. Its more for first time listeners than it is for our long time listeners. For people who have been listening to us for a long time they are used to our jam sessions and our live groove but this one is more catchy and easy to listen to for people who don’t

know what we are about. P: For people who are close, like in Aichi they can always come to our shows, but now we want to reach people far away. People who can only listen to us by CD or on Myspace, so we chose songs that are a really good representation of our style. A: We’ve got myspace, youtube, facebook, mixi. If people are interested in us, check our myspace, come to our live shows. Feel free to write to us and criticize us. That is one of the big differences between Australia and

to the people who who have supported and connected with us. We’ve been lucky enough to play the music we love and really enjoy doing it, and the only reason we have gotten this far is because of all the them. I: From now on please dance to Blanka’s songs. Let’s dance! P: We want to keep making better and better songs for our fans. A: As one last thing can I list some other bands and venues that we like? Cafe Domina, Ragslow Cafe, Bob and Keisuke’s, Cafe Nation, Plastic Factory, One love studio, Fever, Stereophonics, DJ Dij, Dj Babur, Dj Kachiwari, Dj Ura, Dj Inaji, Tomo Shagger, Soulskye, Sonicland Peacemakers, Cactus, Konton and A-funk. They are our Universe. Its not a sentence but...Oh and RAN MAGAZINE! You can also connect with them by searching for “blanka japan” in facebook groups, or watch live videos on their youtube channel.

Japan, the critical reply. People aren’t as critical, and people have critical thoughts but they dont really say them straight up. They are very polite, so we would like to hear that. RAN: Is there anything else you want to say? T: Just to express our appreciation

listen to Blanka’s music at theblanka
You can

Should I Stay or Should I Go?
行 く か 行 か な い か

| By Milo Omana |

for Ray Charles, a fellow Georgian


uddenly, walking down a street, be it real or be it a dream, one realizes for the first time that the years have flown; that all this has passed forever & will live on only in memory.* I’m in a dream & she’s there, sitting at the other end of the table at this nomikai (“the let’s get drunk & meet party”), maybe five couples separating us. I shout hi & yell my first words to her in Japanese: Do you want to get married?! It was supposed to be a joke, yeah, but it still made an impression & that joke led to another & yet another, a little of this & that, then this, that & the other. What was meant to be a one-year adventure in this land of rising sun had become something like a safari to nowhere. And somehow our blood, sweat & tears lasted longer than five years, up until this latest Feb 14th, when in place of a gift she told me on the phone: It was indeed finished. Our dreams finished, my dream deferred. I had a woman, way over town (in Komaki), that was good to me, oh yeah. She saved her loving, for early in the morning, (Ooh la la) just for me.**

(Thanks, Ray. These memories are a bitch.) But hold on. This here that I’m writing is not about her. This is not about her. Not about her at all. It’s about me. This is about me. I’m writing all of this for me. So, Should I stay or should I go? I don’t know. I look back at my six years here, & remember when BabyFace told me he was leaving. I couldn’t believe it. I thought we were both lifers. I said, Why in the hell are you leaving, BabyFace? And you’re leaving your beautiful girlfriend behind! Can’t you see the love in her eyes? She loves you man. BabyFace looked into the distance, then smiled his blue eyes at me. He said, “I don’t know, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m just going to go back to Indy & see what happens.” That was over a year ago. BabyFace is now in law school. I heard his beautiful girl is coming to live with him. Huh? (I mean, BabyFace was a rolling

stone, man. I guess we all eventually gather moss.) And I remember how Zee did it. I’ll never forget him, his long Osama beard that summer, his infatuation with 70’s music & killing zombies on Xbox. Zee bought a one-way ticket then went into hiding three months prior to departure. He didn’t want anybody talking him out of it. That was over two years ago. I saw him when he came back to visit last spring. He had shaved his beard & joined the Marines. He had become a real Officer straight out of Platoon. Huh? And there was that blonde from Ohayo who liked poetry & water. She lasted five years on this rock. She said the party’s over. It has been over three years since that day we recited, Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.*** I heard she’s living underwater somewhere in the Pacific, wearing a mask, strapped to an oxygen tank, chasing fish. From what I’ve tasted of desire, I hold with those who favor fire.***

24 |RAN|

Yeah. There are more. There are too many memories of people leaving, of farewell parties, of me getting their stuff, like blenders, kotatsu (“the heated & blanketed table”), desks, beds, kitchen utensils, even barbells & squat racks, & cramming all of it into my tiny apartment with paper walls. I would then see my friends off to the station, us saying sayonaras & sharing hugs. This has happened way too many times. Where are they, the departed ones? Some are back home living in houses with harder walls, some working at insurance companies with weekly staff meetings, staring at computers, etc etc. It sounds so boring. But some are in Uni, others rampaging through the jungles of Southeast Asia, some living lives as expats elsewhere, writing books, learning how to write books. But all of them pursuing dreams. What about didn’t leave? Why those did they who stay?

line to Utsumi, the beach. Both drinking Asahi’s on the train, naturally we gravitated toward one other. He was telling me about his beach pub crawl, how he did it every summer Sunday. I asked him how long he’d been at it. “Twenty years,” he said. “I came here on vacation & got stuck.” Huh? And then there are the multitudes of us who come here & get stuck living with Japanese in-laws. My friend SpaceMan found himself in this predicament, but he eventually escaped. And of course there are those Japanophiles who love everything manga, everything Japanese drama, everything kanji, katakana & hiragana, they love everything Tokyo & Roppongi & Fukuoka ramen & Nagoya Yama-chan, tebasaki (“the chicken wing”) & & ad infinitum. Those Japanophiles want to be stuck. I know cause I used to be one. Yet I’m thinking I’m not one now. I had a woman, way over town, who was good to me (she left me). Oh yeah.**

(Thanks again, Ray. I think I just became unstuck.) Sure, I like Japan. I like the food. I love the chicken wing! I like the sexy clothes, the J-girl thing. I even like the kanji & the terrible singing at karaoke. But this ain’t my home. These are not my people. This is not my country. And she’s no longer my woman, Ray. I want to go home. And I want to go home now. Back to Georgia, where moonlight shines through the pines. This road leads back to you. (And the party’s over.) ... suddenly, these memories intrude, rise up like ghosts & permeate every fiber of one’s being.* It’s all just a dream. Wake up. *Henry Miller, from Black Spring **Ray Charles, from I Got a Woman ***Robert Frost, from Fire and Ice Miló Omaña

I remember the sax player from California. We met on the Meitetsu

|RAN| 25



| By TD Houchen |
can get repeats, then I can get a steady income. This job is very unstable.. TD: What do you do to get their hearts? M: Well, I try to keep a smile on my face always, and I try to put myself in their shoes. I try to communicate with them from their perspective, and I try hard to make sure they enjoy their time with me, but it is difficult to catch their hearts…. (She sighs heavily). TD: Describe a session with a customer, how does it all go down? (Pun kind of intended..) M: They come into the room. We greet each other. Then we speak a little, small talk. Then maybe we have a hug, then we take off our clothes and take a shower, then we have ‘mat play’, then we have ‘bed play’. After that we take another shower, touch our bodies together, then we talk again a little, maybe smoke a cigarette, then we say goodbye. TD: Sounds almost quaint. How long is one session usually? M; They can pay for one hour or two hours, 60 minutes or 120 minutes. TD: Is there any part of the session that you especially like? M: I like the talking when it’s all over, because then I can know it’s over. TD: Which part(s) do you not like? M; The hardest part is kissing the customers, and doing the sexual things, because the customer is not my boyfriend, he’s just a customer…



ome on. Admit it. You’ve wondered what exactly goes on in those “Health Clubs” that you can’t get into, and that are sprinkled all over town. You’ve seen them, almost fully-nude pictures of luscious-looking Japanese women brazenly displayed on the buildings’ exterior, places called “Mothers” or “Ecstacee” or “Bus Stop” or whatever. Well, leave it to ya boy, me, big TD, to dig up the dirt so you don’t have to. I hustled up a real sex worker and sat honey down and chatted her up over toast, coffee, and French fries at a local Denny’s for a few hours about her life, her work, her thoughts and her feelings about her job, which is, to pleasure Japanese men for dough 8 to 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. The things we do for yen, everyone is a prostitute at some level, someone once said that I think, and if not, I just did. She was very “normal”, very forthcoming, and very attractive. Peep Game. TD: So, what’s your name? SW: “Mie”. TD: Okay Mie, how old are you? M: I’m 27. TD: You’re very cute. M: Thank you, you too. TD: Go easy Mie, I’m a professional. M; Sorry..

TD: Where do you live? M: Nagoya, but I’m from Gifu TD: Enough with the tiny talk, how long have you been doing this work Mie? M: One year or so.. TD: How did you get into this line of business? M: I was approached by the guys who stand on the street, you know, with the funny hair and pointed shoes, they are “scouts”, they asked me if I was looking for a job.. TD: Were you? M: Yes, but I wasn’t looking for this kind of job. I was looking for a job as a cabaret girl, or a “regular” job to do during the day…. TD: What did the scout say to you to make you interested in doing this work? M: He asked me to get into the sex/Health Club industry right off. I wasn’t sure, but he was very kind. I was surprised. I was told that people in that industry are all mafia-related, but the guy who approached me wasn’t. He was kind and so I felt I could trust him, so I decided to try it. TD: What is the hardest thing about doing this job? M: Getting the customers hearts. TD: Why do you want their hearts? M: Because if I can get their heart, then they will become regulars, you know, repeat customers. I want to have the same customers for myself because if I

26 |RAN|


TD: How can you prepare your mind and body to do these intimate things with perfect strangers? M: What’s perfect about them? TD: It’s a term we use in English to describe..nevermind, I mean, how can you do these things with people you don’t know at all? M: It’s just work. I tell myself over and over, “…this is my job, this is my job..”, so that is what I think, it’s just a job i’m doing now. TD: Have you ever found yourself turned on by any of your customers? Sexually or otherwise? M: I have been sexually turned on, and, I fell in love with one of my customers, but usually, anytime I find myself thinking, “this feels good”, I’m surprised. TD: Are you turned on by me right now? M: Relax. You should relax. TD: You’re right. So what made you fall in love with that particular customer? M: First, I thought he was handsome, he was my type. Then after we were together, we began exchanging emails. I came to find out he was really, genuinely kind, but eventually, I found it wasn’t real love, just infatuation… TD: So, it is possible for the workers to find love in these places.. M: Yes. TD: Fascinating. Do you like being sexually turned on while you are working? Or do you prefer to just think ‘it’s a job’ and get it over with? M: The best way is for me to be naturally turned on by my customers, but most times, it isn’t like that, so, I close my eyes and imagine he is my boyfriend. TD: Do you think this work degrades women? M: At first, I wondered if men thought the women who do this kind of work are unclean, but I do think it gives women a bad image-inside of myself, I am always fighting with my own feelings.. TD: Are you and any of the other workers very close friends? M: No, we have shallow friendships only. TD: So you have a boyfriend.. M: Yes. TD: Does he know about your job? M; No, he doesn’t. TD: What’s his number? Just joking, ah, what does he think you do for your money?

M: He thinks I work at a cabaret club. TD: If he knew about your real job, what do you think he would do? How would he take it? M: I think he’d break up with me. TD: So you’ll never tell him about what you do? M: I don’t think so. TD: Is it easy for you to become sexually aroused with your boyfriend after a day of doing this work? M: For a while, after work, I didn’t feel anything with my boyfriend, so I decided that on the day that I know I will meet my boyfriend, I take that day off. TD: Nice of you…do you ever feel that you are cheating on him? M: In the beginning I did, but now I just tell myself “it’s just work, it’s business”, and I’m okay with it. TD: How much longer do you plan to do this? M: Maybe one more year.. TD: How long to most women do this type of work? M: The longest I’ve heard is 10 years, but women who are doing this move around from club to club, the average length of time I think is like 2 to 3 years. Women don’t stay at the same place though, they move around.

I am not ashamed of my work. I think it is important to keep sexual desire in order to feel alive and vigorous
TD: What is your opinion of the men who are your customers? M: They want a sexual experience they can’t get from their wives or their girlfriends, simple really. I have no special opinion of them. TD: Do you think the men who come to Health Clubs are cheating on their partners? M: I don’t think it’s cheating, I think it’s a way these men can enjoy their lives. TD: If you were married and discovered your husband had been going to a place like where you work, how do you think you would feel? M: I would be okay with it, but really, I wouldn’t want to know about it, it’s his business what he is doing, I don’t want to know. TD: If you were the boss of one of these establishments, what would be different? M: I would be more caring to the girls.

Many of the women working in this industry have lots of problems personally and at the job. I would listen to the girls more and talk to them and care for them. The bosses insist we work even when we are menstruating, so, I would care more about the girls. TD: Foreigners are not allowed at 98 percent of these places, why is that? M: Communication is difficult. Words and gestures aren’t the same. Plus, foreigners have more disease than Japanese, Japanese think foreign women have many sexually transmitted diseases, so naturally, foreign men do too. TD: Really? Wow. Would you let foreigners come in if you were boss? M: Maybe, it depends on what he looks like, if he can speak any Japanese.. TD: Would you let me in?…nevermind.. how many customers do you see in any average day? M: 3 or 4, the most was 14 in one day. TD: Wow. That beats my one day record by about 13, no, 12, no, 11, well, no, she didn’t count, so 12. Wow. 14. You must have felt really tired. M: Yes, it was a long day. TD: What was the strangest request you ever received? M: A man brought rope and tied me up, it was fun for him but not for me, another customer asked me to punch him in his stomach as hard as I could…he almost vomited but that’s what he liked, that almost-vomiting feeling. TD: Yeah, I used to like that too, but I sorta grew out of it. Last question, do you have any coupons or anything, I mean like a free pass, or is there like a back door or something… M: (Nervous laughter, followed by nervous silence.) No, I don’t. TD: Anything else you’d like to add? ( A little pissed.) M: I am not ashamed of my work. I think it is important to keep sexual desire in order to feel alive and vigorous. My older customers are very “genki” and alive and it is because they have kept their sexual desire. TD: Thank you for your time, can I eat your french fries? M: I gotta go.. ..and then, just like that, she got up and bounced off, leaving me and my translator eating cold fries and feeling…. frisky.

|RAN| 27

know your rights
| By TN |
ost people who know me might say I'm pretty calm, and don't get offended or angry too often. True. If I think about it there aren't too many things that get under my skin. Things that do however, are racial intolerance, ignorance, and discrimination. Growing up in one of the most multicultural places on the planet, I couldn't imagine people not of my own race as being more or less human than I, and deserving of more or less rights. In my neighborhood, kids from various ethnic groups were all thrown together in the proverbial melting pot at public school, spawning groups of friends that were sometimes dubbed “United Nations.” Unfortunately, not everybody is as comfortable with people different from themselves, and sadly this can spawn prejudice, intolerance, and ultimately injustice. Being a white guy (Caucasian if you need me to be P.C.), I was never a target for racial profiling by the police, and was somewhat oblivious of it in my own city until some of my nonwhite friends recounted their appalling


experiences. Though the police officially deny employing racial profiling tactics, the reality is if you aren't white you get treated differently. That must be a bitter pill to swallow for those that fit into that category, I thought. Transport me to a land on the opposite end of the multicultural spectrum, and suddenly I am in a similar category: different from the majority. However, this time the majority is 99% them, 1% me! Fortunately I managed to live in Japan for about four years before I was ever a victim of racial profiling. When it happened I was in a good mood and didn't cause a scene (luckily for all involved), though the replays in my mind paint a different picture. It went down like this: I was walking in Nagoya station with two friends, both of whom were visiting from Canada and happened to be of Philippine background, when we were stopped by three police officers who asked for our Alien Registration cards and passports. I hesitated and asked my friends if they had their passports on them and when one of

handcuff image: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

A more recent episode had me zigzagging through a residential area after I noticed a police car following me

28 |RAN|


them didn't, I decided it would not be a good idea to be defiant. I unwillingly showed them my Alien Registration card and mumbled short answers to their inane questions while my blood began to boil. I mean seriously, is it necessary to stop foreigners in the middle of Nagoya station for no reason whatsoever other than being foreigners? There were thousands more mostly Japanese people walking, standing, waiting, and loitering around this station, and here this cop was messing with us like we committed a crime. It's quite possible that they were targeting my friends because of their ethnicity, but when I asked the officers why they had stopped us, they offered up some irrational excuse: “there's a lot of foreigners around today”. Yeah, no kidding jackass. It's the weekend of Nagoya Matsuri, and this is a large TRAIN STATION!! Although these officers were not unpleasant, I walked away from that still chewing the remains of that bitter pill.

from the main road for, again, no reason. The fact that they will go far out of their way to pursue somebody just because they are not Japanese has me wondering, are they that bored? Do they not have anything better to do? And more importantly, what am I going to do about this? What can I do? After all, I think it's safe to say that one's standard of living has decreased when they are constantly looking over their shoulders, wary of gaijin-hunting cops, especially after stories of police coercion and forced confessions pervade the news. Wondering if there even is a law regarding showing one's ID to law enforcement, I decided to check out the website by naturalized Japanese citizen and activist, Arduo Debito. His website deals with these sorts of issues, and has done most of the hard research for you. Besides giving direct translations of Japanese laws on this and other issues, they also go through possible situations that you may find yourself in, complete with what you should do and say, how to react to what's being said and done, and above all, inform you of all rights and provisions of the law. I can't tell you whether or not police should stop foreigners just because, or why they do. I would just like to help spread the knowledge to other foreigners, who have or haven't been in similar predicaments, so that they are aware of their rights, and hopefully exercise those rights if the need occurs. The police have a duty to keep our streets safe, and we all have a duty to make sure we are treated like human beings, and not possible criminals.

  Some important points to know and remember
1. You must have your Alien Registration Card on your person at all times. Being caught without it can result in a hefty fine. 2. The police may stop and ask you questions without any reason (probable cause, suspicion of a crime). 3. You are legally obliged to show the police your Alien Registration Card if asked, BUT you also have the right to ask to see the police officer's ID FIRST. (except if in a police box) 4. Police cannot take you anywhere unless you are under arrest. 5. Police need a warrant to search your person, possessions, or property. This includes urine samples. Ask for a warrant if police try to search you, or demand a urine sample. 6. Do NOT touch the officer, or raise your voice, or you may be arrested for Obstruction of Duty. As angry as you may be, any violence or defiance will only land you in jail.

visit Debito Arudou’s helpful site
|RAN| 29




a look at net-cafe refugees


| Story and photos by Jason Gatewood |


hile the economy has certainly affected a lot of the world, Japan remains relatively unscathed in terms of severity, at least on the surface. Unlike my home country of The United States, I’m not turning on the TV and seeing tons of people being tossed out of their homes unable to pay their housing loans, or having cars and other large items repossessed by the banks. Maybe it’s due to the “saving mentality” that most Japanese have. The bubble economy of the 1980s made it easy for parents to throw money in the bank and save it for a rainy day; The average citizen has around ¥3,000,000 in their savings accounts by the time they are twenty-five years old or so. Of course this has nothing to do with money that they may have personally saved from wages at that point. Most savings start out with a sizeable gift from grandparents and parents when the benefactors are still trotting off to primary school in yellow bucket hats and oversized old-school backpacks. Up until recently, most would never consider touching the money saved in these accounts until it was time to start thinking of marriage and starting their own households.

However due to the continuing economic situation staring them unblinkingly in the face, little money saved for college, jobs either in short supply or non-existant once graduated, and wages and benefits cut from the jobs that are available, young adults are increasingly using their saved nest eggs earlier in the game. What happens when the well runs dry though? They could move back in with their parents and try again--but pride keeps most from admitting failure. They could stay with friends, but most of them are in the same boat, living with family or in some small 1LDK with barely enough room for the rightful tenants themselves to fit inside without an elbow or a knee

Denny’s and Gusto are good because usually the staff just lets you sleep after you eat a meal.
hanging out the window. So where can a person go when they need a warm, dry place to crash for the night? For some the answer would be Manboo or Popeye--Internet Cafés. For others it could be the all-night, come-as-youplease eateries-Denny’s, Gusto, Jonathan’s to name a few. This is not a totally new phenomenon; I too have spent many a night in an

internet cafe, usually because I couldn’t get the last train home or was out partying and ran out of gas way too early to pull an all-nighter. Most internet cafes have an all-night special price for this very reason. Usually ¥1200~¥1500 will grant you access to an enclosed booth with a computer, a desk lamp, and sometimes a separate TV/DVD player. The booth can be big enough for just one person, or big enough to have a small love seat/recliner combination. The booths can be as simple as to just have a small low divider between the spaces, or be more extravagant with oversized cubicles, doors and tatami mats inside. Whatever the accomodations, if you visit one around 2am any given night, you can always find almost half the patrons are sleeping, rather than doing any late-night You-Tubing or Mixi surfing. I personally think they make a great last resort sleep spot for when you’re touring a different part of Japan, and can’t seem to find lodging for the night (because you refused to call and make reservations on a three day holiday weekend...) Now there is a growing trend in Japan of 20-somethings wandering the landscape without a yen to their name, but not quite broke either. I recently was

30 |RAN|

introduced to two people who recently became members of this new fragment of society. Of course, they refused to use their real names to keep their identities anonymous. Taro was an average student at his university, but he had a talent for being able to talk to anyone about anything. “I guess I’m not like most Japanese with that trait, right? I’ve always been curious about a lot, and I never really had a fear of asking so I just would.” So it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that once graduated from university, he took a job with a large company working in their survey and consumer relations section. “Our customers were mostly older retirees, and I got to get out the office three times a week and talk to them. It was a good job because I could meet some interesting people and be outside making visits. The salary was enough to start saving and still go out some weekends too.” However Taro’s success was short lived, because after nearly three years of

Sometimes I sleep over at friend’s houses--I have a lot of friends. They think I’m a traveling sales man now. I told them I moved from Nagoya but I come here every week or so, that way they offer to let me stay overnight in their house. 'Its better than sleeping in some strange hotel and we can hang out a little’, they say. They have no idea I’m homeless.” However, Taro only does this a few times a month though so as not to wear out his welcome. “I like internet cafes because no one questions why you’re sleeping there; most people are there to sleep a little in the middle of the night.” He rotates between 5 or 6 different cafes in the city so he doesn’t raise suspicion. “In this manner, I have a routine. The staff just thinks I’m a hard worker and left work late. They think maybe I live far from here and I don’t have enough

think... But I can’t tell you if they’re homeless because they have money to pay, and look like they have jobs,” says one staff member of a large chain of Internet cafes. “At any rate, these guys are kinda computer otaku and I can’t tell whether they’re just here to get away from their family’s house or they have no home at all.” Staff members usually adopt an anonymity policy about their guests in any case unless things get totally out of hand. “Actually our biggest problem is couples going into the booths to fool around. Usually it’s teenagers who can’t go to a love hotel because they’re too young or embarrassed. But the booths here offer a little privacy, as long as you’re quiet I guess...” Other places have started making accommodations a little easier for overnighters. “We provide those who pay the overnight rate with a blanket and a sleeping mask. We also give them complementary toothbrushes and small towels to wash up with before they leave.” says an assistant manager of an internet cafe in Kyoto. “Of course we aren’t inviting people to live in the cafe though.” Maybe not, but with those enticements along with the complementary beverages, cup ramen, and the most important thing- warm and dry shelter- If I had no where else to go, for ¥1300 a night, I’d try it. “I don’t plan on doing this forever you know... Just until I can get on my feet” says Taro. “I want what anyone my age wants I guess- a girlfriend, some pocket money, my own room, and some savings. I want to travel, maybe see Hawaii, Guam, someplace like that. So I hit the street everyday trying to find a job.”

employment, the company suddenly laid off twenty five people, and Taro was one of them. “At first I thought its temporary, I’ll be working again in a week or two. I guess after a month, I started feeling like it’s time to go find a new job.” But in the 8 months since being laid-off he’s had a hard time looking for any work. “I had to decide between paying rent or eating.” So he let his lease expire and decided to try to find work wherever he could get it. “If I keep an apartment, I won’t be able to get a job somewhere else.” He currently works part time for a company that sends him to other cities to do surveys, but it’s only part time work. “At least they pay the travel costs. But the money is just enough to keep me alive--They only have me working three days a week mostly.” In order to save money, he’s living ‘semihomeless’ “Oh, I sleep wherever I can. for a hotel. Whatever they think, they only see me maybe twice a month, so I’m forgotten, and never questioned.” He also catches some shut-eye at 24 hour family restaurants too. “Denny’s and Gusto are good because usually the staff just lets you sleep after you eat a meal. It’s 3am and no one is really in there, and I guess they think I’m going to catch the first train or something, so they leave me alone. I leave the money on the table while I sleep; they can do their job, and I can rest.” Internet cafe workers here in Nagoya have noticed a few late night “regulars” on the rise as well. “We have maybe three or four people that fit this trend I

|RAN| 31

流 行

Osu Style
| Story and photos by Achim Runnebaum |
apanese Society seems so collected, so ordered on the surface. But dig deeper below the surface and you’ll find a fascinating world of immense contradictions..... The walls of conformity seem to come crashing down when you wander a bit off the beaten track. As you step into the multifaceted streets of Osu, it feels like you’ve stepped into a different Nagoya.....a more open minded and accepting Nagoya. While Sakae seems conservative and conformist at times, the eclectic mix of fashion styles in Osu is the complete opposite with bright colours, a parade of 2nd hand clothing stores, lots of people with tattoos and piercings, and many little off-the-wall shops ranging from independent reggae stores to second hand stores to alternative lifestyle stores. Osu has something for everyone. The people in Osu are also very different from the people you’d meet in Sakae.... It’s almost like they’re trying to rebel against the oppressive mainstream, which is reflected in their sometimes outrageous fashion. It’s bold, free, and ever-


that up) would describe their style compared to the mainstream..... Two girls dressed in something akin to Lolita Style said: “It’s more open here in can be anyone you want to be.” RAN: What three words would describe your style? “Trendy, Chic, and Carefree” Just a short while after that, and a rather difficult time trying to ask people if it was okay to take their picture (it’s amazing how even the most outlandishly dressed people can become very self-conscious and shy in front of a camera), I noticed this guy with a Mohawk and some huge glasses on. “I feel like I can be more myself when I come here because I feel like I’m much more accepted for my style” While talking to the Mohawk guy, two girls gave me all kinds of curious looks. They wore really tall platform boots and after asking them a couple of questions about what they think about their style and the scene in Osu, I noticed a stunning Japanese woman. After talking to her, I saw that some Bon Jovi looking dude was giving me really dirty looks for talking to her... Turns it it was her boyfriend who, after being offered to have his picture taken for the magazine, changed his attitude completely and was all too happy to pose for a couple of shots. Just goes to show... appeal to people’s vanity and you can change a frown into a smile. He wore a really eclectic mix of styles (Can you guess which one he is?) To me it seemed like he was trying a bit too hard to be cool, but hey, that is also part of the style in Osu. It seems like there’s no middle ground here: no gray-zone. It’s either one extreme, or the other. On another occasion I talked to this guy with dreadlocks and Cambodianlooking “rags” on. We had a good, short chat about the scene in Osu and how he ended up there... “I just couldn’t imagine putting on a suit, hiding my real self, and working in an office all day. That’s just not me” Now he works at one of the (eastern/ Indian/African/natural) stores and loves it. “Here I can do what I like”. “You get to meet so many interesting people every day and they’re all really chilled out. It feels much more like a young, trendy community here than in corporate and over-marketed Sakae or Meieki” RAN: yeah, I hear you, man. So how would you describe your style in three words? “Comfortable, cheap, mine”. So there you go, folks. The next time you’re in Osu, don’t just walk through, but really try to soak in the air of change, the traditional shaking hands with the trendy, the atmosphere of eclectic openness against the traditional backdrop of one of the oldest places in Nagoya. If I had to sum it all up in a sentence, I would say it’s a part Miami Art Deco, part Fort Green (Brooklyn), part Shibuya, all mixed in a blender and served in a traditional Sake cup. So if you’re heading to Osu, leave your Armani Suit at home, because unlike in the rest of Nagoya here in Osu you will stick out like a sore thumb wearing it. That’s why I love spending time here, grabbing a coffee at my favourite Italian Coffee place, and enjoying watching the people stroll by. It’s really a different Nagoya. The people, the place, the fashion, the attitudes, and the atmosphere are polar opposites from what’s just a short walk down the street....

changing. What makes it so interesting is that on any given day, you can see old ladies in traditional Kimono walking right alongside gothic lolitas, or guys with hair big enough to make any 80’s Metal band proud.... So I took to the streets and tried to find out how true Osunians (just made

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* Event Calander coming soon!

RAN ’s staff and readers like these places / this stuff. You might, too... Kurokawa Salon
Serious beer drinkers who crave a more full-flavored range of ales, stouts, pilsners and weizens need look no further than Kurokawa Salon, a cozy restaurant boasting an impressive menu of beers and wines from around the world. The menu includes great descriptions of each type of beer, divided by type and region. But this bottle-shop is so much more than just a watering-hole, their food menu is top-notch and perfectly complements the beer. The menu is largely European, including plump, flavorful sausages and cheese fondue that will make your mouth water. Just take another swig of that rich, aromatic trappist ale and order another round.

Javan Wasabi Distro
You can never get enough good English reading material, especially if you are into small press or indie publications. Getting your hands on a good English zine, chapbook or mini-comix is almost impossible in this country, but luckily for those hip readers out there Wasabi Distro, the only English zine distro in Japan has amassed a fine collection to save you the footwork. The homepage is easy to navigate in both English and Japanese, and there is an ever growing collection of zines in several languages on a wide range of topics and genres. Don’t settle for the latest Harry Potter book or Obama’s speeches when you could be feeding your brain on good independent small press literature for a fraction of the price. Don’t know what zines, minicomix or chapbooks are? No better place to learn than Wasabi Distro.

| Compiled by RAN staff |

Antique Store
古民芸 「茶々」  (Antique-chacha) For some true Japanese antiques and authentic Kimono/Yukata (for men and women), look no further than this store. Best part, you can do it all in English. Usually it’s very difficult to find english-speaking antique stores in Japan, but you’re in luck, the owner, Shingo (, speaks fluent English and will be more than happy to talk to you (09056272698). If you can’t make it to their storefront in Gifu, you can shop online at their E-bay store: antique-chacha or their Yahoo Auctions store:

Tired of the same old haunts? Looking for something new? Months of lukewarm kyushoku in a crowded lunchroom is enough to make anybody hungry for some variety. If you fall into this category perhaps Javan is just the place for you. Located in Shindeki-machi near the tourist trap of Tokugawa-en, Javan is perhaps the only restaurant serving Persian food in Nagoya. Even for connoisseurs of Persian food Javan’s menu is certain to leave some surprises. Sample the cutlets or mixed kebab, unlike any you are likely to find in the local Turkish restaurants. Wash it down with a variety of yogurt drinks. All entrees come with a plate Jasmine rice – a nice change of pace for those eating white rice three times a day. With the smell of authentic Persian spices fresh in your nostrils and sounds of Irani television up on the wall you might feel like you’ve been transported to a cafe in the heart of modern Tehran, welcome respite from the daily grind of life in the bustling city.

Into the Wild
Winter is upon us. It’s cold and dark and dreary. You need an escape, well, I mean an escape from your escape. But funds are low, what can you do? Head to your nearest DVD rental shop and rent INTO THE WILD, Sean Penn’s cinematic homage to the Jon Krakauer penned biography.

Jerk Chicken
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Jamaica – consider yourself flattered. Imaike is not the most likely location for taste of that island spirit, but just try to resist walk by this place without sticking your head in. You’ll be lured in by the sound of reggae music and the aroma of rotissery chicken which more than makes up for the unimaginative shop name. I am not enough of an authority to vouch for the authenticity but I will say the lunch menu can’t be beat. Fresh handmade salsa and succulent chicken roasted to perfection, accompanied by rice, coleslaw and soup all for a very reasonable price. The shop also boasts a full menu of beers, wines and shochus including Jamaica’s own Red Stripe. I heard they recently added tacos to their menu so don’t waste anytime checking out this cozy bar just behind the Imaike Piago.

Detailing the nomadic cross-country adventures of free-spirited college graduate Chris McCandless, INTO THE WILD is beautiful, insightful, spiritual, inspiring, and picturesque-this film will remind you why you left home in the first place. “I now walk into the wild..”--who hasn’t felt that sensation? Feel it again, in your living room.

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味 わ う

Shinkiro Mongolian Restaurant
| Review and photos by Adam Pasion |
Legend has it that Mongolian soldiers of olde used to gather meats and cook them using their shields and helmets beginning the historic tradition known today as Mongolian barbecue. Fact check: this is almost one hundred percent bullshit. What many westerners have taken to calling “Mongolian barbecue” has absolutely nothing to do with Mongolia, and very little to do with barbecue for that matter. It was actually invented in Taiwan, and it was intended to copy Japanese teppan-yaki. So much for that glorious history. That link severed, the only other connection I had with Mongolian food was a scene from the BBC series “Long Way Round” in which Ewan McGregor tries to gulp down an assortment of animal testicles after some Mongol nomad asks him, “do you like nuts?” I suppose that is one way to get your protein. Fortunately Shinkiro in Sakae was neither the Taiwanese imitation nor a bowl full of sheep balls, but rather an eclectic variety of foods and liquors guaranteed to satiate your palate. Stepping into the entry way it was already quite clear that I had wandered into perhaps the most entertaining dining experience Nagoya has to offer. The dining area is made to look like a traditional Mongolian hut with the tables arranged along the perimeter, lined with ornate oriental throw rugs. After peering around the room to take in the whole scene, I realized many of the happy patrons were wearing traditional Mongolian outfits. No sooner had I made this astute observation than the staff politely asked me to step into the other room, where I was instructed to remove my shirt and be covered in a leather, bare-chested warrior’s tunic and billowy pantaloons. The fun was just beginning. Within a few moments the owner was leading a Mongolian drinking chant and making guests drink vodka from a leather hip-flask. With proper dinner attire well settled and out of the way it was time to take a look at the menu. Wanting to sample everything I quickly opted for the tabehodai + nomihodai look at the menu made my jaw drop at three little words. Fermented horse milk. I double and triple-checked it to ensure that what I was about to order really included equine lactations but there was no way around it. Surprisingly it tasted like a very mild yogurt beverage and soon enough I had three bowls of mare’s milk in my stomach. Then began the nearly endless procession of food. First came Buuz, a sort of dumpling made of minced mutton with a savory broth that bursts into your mouth when you bite into it. Next they broought out khorkhog, diced beef and onions, seared on a hot stone and spiced to perfection. To tone it down a bit they brought Khusshuur,a breaded and fried pocket full of minced mutton and herbs. The best item on the menu was chanasan makh, boiled lamb that falls apart in your mouth. Every one of these items was good enough to order a second helping, or even a third, but not before I tried out a generous glass of their local Mongolian vodka. I get a strong sense that the menu is tamed down for Japanese customers, since I didn’t see anything on the menu about marmot cooked with hot rocks in its stomach, reported to be quite popular in Mongolia. Nevertheless the food was about as authentic as I think you can find outside of Mongolia itself, and on top of that its just plain delicious. More than anything though, Shinkiro is an experience best shared with good friends and family. The delightful atmosphere and central-Asian ambiance takes you out of the pumping gears of the city and places you on the vast steppes where Ghengis Khan and Atilla the Hun once roamed. Shinkiro is located in Sakae just a few blocks east of the Chunichi Building. All-you-can-eat and drink for 3800 yen. For more info or to make a reservation, check their website at:

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