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RANMAGAZINE.COM November / December 2010 | ISSUE 8 |

FOR
To Live And Die In N A
~ from the publisher

WARD
W
hoa. The year is almost over. Already. Nagoya hasn’t yet gotten hit by the big one, but a few smaller ones have rocked our city. Sometimes seems like we’re going backwards and forwards simultaneously, both in our personal lives and in our social lives. Nagoya is alive. Rock This Town. Summer ended one day in September, me and the crew blasted down Nagara River one final time and only J7’s ass hit the surf a few times. Suddenly it was October for a quick minute, windy, cold and wet-and now winter stares us down. Oktoberfest at Tsurumai exceeded everyone’s expectations. The day was the most perfect day all season, and the bands and people and the food of Dennis Salmon made the day one of our most unforgettable. I Love October. Absolute Halloween brought together a thousand Nagoya souls and a crew of Nagoya’s Finest DJs emerged. Find Them Here. October also saw the COP 10 take a shot at making our city of Nagoya a player in the global sweeptstakes for rescuing mankind from itself. Biodiversity is on the table all over the planet, and several hundred of the top delegates and leading scientists from everywhere on earth stopped into Nagoya to make their case. Even Han Solo flew in on his Millenium Falcon and wielded his light saber in defense of the animals and the land. It was luminary. From this meeting, a certain percentage of biodiversity in the form of animals, lands, marshes, oceans, etc, will be roped off from mankind’s destructive tendencies. Things Need To Live And Grow, let’s leave them be, shall we? COP 10 didn’t meet all of it’s goals, indigenous peoples aren’t satisfied with what they’ll get when the next miracle medicine is found on their farmlands, but they got a better deal than they had-the so-called “access and benefit sharing” protocols predictably went more in favor of the corporate, but at least the indigenous people had the opportunity to put themselves in the running for the riches---strike a blow to the phat pharmaceuticals all over the world, from right here in Nagville. I sort of think we’re all indigenous in some way, aren’t we? Sick. A Nagoya radio institution shut down it’s signal on the last day of September, and now another radio innovator stands poised to take Nagoya radio, and radio in general, to a whole new level, www.nagoyaradio.com, check on it. Another institution, Hard Rock Café, will be saying sayonara at the end of this year, we’ve had 3 successful rock shows on that HRC stage, we’ll say goodbye with year’s end HARD ROCK CAFÉ SAYONARA PARTY on Friday, December 10th. Our parties at The Rock are major events in Nagoya, check your calendar. Dive In Five. That’s how a friend recently characterized what’s going to happen with the Yen, currently a global currencly powerhouse. He thinks by next spring, the yen won’t be as powerful worldwide, good thing maybe, the imbalance is wrecking havoc on Japan’s economy, but allowing those of us who work here to be able to travel with a lot more impunity. Do you think the yen will take a dive on the world’s markets? Hope not, at least until I get my travel plans together. Dive In Ten. Please? Next Spring: Thailand. Year’s end, how is it going with you and the goals you’ve set for yourself? The SUCCESS ISSUE we did was aimed to get the entrepreneur in you going a bit. We’re reporting on what’s happening in the streets of Nagoya, and we’d like you to be what’s happening. Get Your Art On, however you do it. Make It Happen. Big Ups to our newest sponsors,--ENGLISH TEACHERS SERIES—is posting giant numbers on YOUTUBE, have you commented yet? The webisode is a star attraction on the net right now, perfectly timed and placed, and made here in Nagoya. We Run This Town. Christmas and New Years are around the corner, we’ll be out in the streets wanting to know what you’re up to. Smile for the camera. tdh

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CONTENTS
July / August 2010 - ISSUE NO. 6

features
cover art: ELIOS NISHIWAKI table of contents photo: ACHIM RUNNEBAUM

5 Relate
Christian

3 stories about love in Japan Can you relate?

12 The Pagoda Diaries 17 A Tale of Two Dancers 22 The DJs 24 The Metro Club
Nagoya's longest living party

27 Stand Up, Please

The State of Comedy in Japan

29 FUTURE NAGOYA?

Alan Omerovic Re-designs The Design City

departments

4 The Green Spot 18 Go 26 30 32 34
Thailand Mon!

It's Not Easy Being Green

20 Nagoya Club Guide
Looking for a club in Nagoya?

Fashion
It's boot season in Nagoya!

28 Create
Read Taste

Aya & Maria

Publisher: TD Houchen Layout Designer: Adrien Sanborn Web Manager: Jason L. Gatewood Staff Writer/Illustrator/ Designer: Adam Pasion Photography: Achim Runnebaum Send story ideas, art, photography, and advertising inquiries to: tdhouchen@ranmagazine.com Promotional Events/Co-Promotion: tdhouchen@ranmagazine.com

Moresukine: Updated Weekly From Tokyo

Ariana: Afghani Cuisine

www.

Comics
Art, comics, and other amusements

ranmagazine .com
|RAN| 3

環 境

The

G reen

SPOT

BEI NG REEN G
COP 10 in Nagoya - what it is and how you can help

I T 'S N OT E A SY

| Story and photos by Achim Runnebaum |

T

hey're green, and they're everywhere in and around Nagoya these days.... Unfortunately not trees...... we still need more of those in the city.. I'm talking about the COP 10 flyers and advertisements you see all over town. Maybe you've seen them on the trains or at various venues around town and wondered what all the fuss is really about. Well, 2010 was declared to be the International Year of Biodiversity - a celebration of the various life on earth. COP is the biggest convention for Biological diversity in the world and its held right here in our backyard this year. So why is Biodiversity important enough to have a huge meeting and hang flyers and posters all over town? -It Boosts Ecosystem productivity, where each species, no matter how seemingly insignificant, all play an important role. A greater Species diversity means a healthier ecosystem, which means more natural sustainability for all life forms, which leads to many uncountable benefits for not only the whole planet, but also directly and indirectly for us humans. Think about it: We are all part of nature, not separate from it. We depend on it for food, medicinal resources, pollution breakdown and absorption, climate stability, not to mention social benefits such as recreation and tourism... Biodiversity is a vast, interactive and highly complex system of interdependent life on earth. It is the basis of life and to undermine it is to undermine life itself. It is the single most important challenge we face today. Answer me this question. What is more important than protecting the planet? The answer is nothing.... NOTHING is more important than protecting the planet and everything on it, because we are all connected and interdependent. Possibly the greatest value of biodiversity may be the opportunities it gives us for adopting to change, such as the potential to discover new cures for current and emerging diseases. Oh, and we haven't even touched on the economic benefits of protecting the environment yet. Numerous studies have indicated that investments in protected areas will generate a cost-benefit ratio of one to 25 and even up to 100 in some cases (Pavan Sukhdev, from TEEB). Our inaction has already cost us an immeasurable amount of money for environmental repair and losses of production due to environmental degradation.

In order to protect our planets' biodiversity, we need to accept and act on a shift from a reactive stance, to a proactive effort seeking stance that will ensure the long-term sustainability of earth's natural resources, whether material or biological. So folks, as big a deal as COP10 is/was, you must realize that we don't need a conference to tell us how bad the situation has become on our watch. It's time to start taking actions individually on a daily, monthly, weekly, and yearly basis. Don't wait for the experts to make the first moves for you. It's up to you to start acting, not for your own good, but for the good of every living, breathing organism on this planet. Instead of having a debate every year about how to protect our biodiversity and help the planet, we should be thinking, planning, talking, debating, acting, and most importantly of all, teaching about it every day. Don't wait for experts to find a solution to this problem. The solution is already out there. Just look in the mirror and realize that you are the solution to the dilemma we're all facing. No big, huge scientific breakthrough or conference will change life on earth for the better.... only you can do that. For more information and taking action, go to:

http://www.cbd.int/ hooper/10thingsforbiodiversity.pdf
Another great resource is: http://www.biol.wwu.edu/ If you want to help right now, here are some things you can do today: • Help clean up and protect beaches, parks, and fields at every opportunity you have • Volunteer your time for environmental organizations • Be a smart shopper; only buy things you really need in order to cut down on wasting resources. • Educate yourself about the state of the planet and its inhabitants • Most important of all, teach what you've learned to others, so that they may inspire others, so that they may inspire others, so that...... you get the point. Only together can we make a change.

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relationships are never easy. can't live with them, can't live without them. Can you relate?
three stories about love in japan
|RAN| 5

~ in ~
G

Relationships

| By mzlove |

Japan…
guy who does more than half of his share of the housework and I’ll show you some pigs that I’ve trained how to fly. Who has time to complain about our paltry relationships when we have to take kids to the doctor, dentist, lessons, juku, friends’ houses, go shopping for food, doing the washing, ironing and cleaning up? You guys think you are in a bad situation in Japan? Women have had to become resourceful over our long and prejudiced history and basically have learned that when you need support, you usually have to organize it yourself. One of these examples, the Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese (AFWJ) founded about 40 years ago, is a nationally based group and has around 600 members. Yes, it’s a corny name and I admit to shying away from it upon arrival, but we’ve actually had men enquire to join. I joined about 7 years ago and go through periods of high and low participation, but I always know it’s there. This means joining up with local foreign women in your area, for example after you move to a new city, joining the local chat room for serious information on English speaking doctors (gynecologists!), dentists, playgroups for kids, book clubs, double income no kids groups, weight loss groups and local information on your city. There is even a quarterly publication with article submissions from national members. I’ll bet you men were all wishing you were women about now, eh? Some of the women just arrived a few years ago and are still (ahem…) working out the kinks in their relationships, while others have been here since the 60’s, but it’s exactly because of this kind of serious support network that I think must lead directly to less whiny and self absorbed articles in public expat magazines freaking out about the high maintenance and crappy nature of cross cultural relationships from the ladies. Secondly, this is not the first time in history that women have had to endure the wrath of unruly, unfair, sometimes violent and generally domineering husbands over the centuries. Why start complaining about it now? We were still the property of our husbands and fathers until a little under a century ago and look at us now! What could there possibly be to complain about??? Come on guys. You chose to come to Japan, you chose to date Japanese women, did you expect it to stay a bed (no pun intended) of sunshine and little white flowers forever? Relationships are hard back home too, you know. Or is it because of your falsely elevated status upon arrival in Japan, where you heard how tall and

ot ya’, didn’t I? You thought that this would be another article about a foreign guy and a Japanese woman, didn’t you? I’m a foreign woman in a relationship with a Japanese man. I know what you are probably thinking; you knew we were out there…somewhere…maybe a few of us foreign women crazy enough to marry a Japanese guy. Well, you’re wrong about that. There are actually more of us than there are of you. The majority of international marriages in Japan consist of those with a foreign woman and Japanese man. In fact according to a survey from The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in 2006, of the approximately 36,000 international marriages in Japan, 27,881 of included a foreign woman and only 8,158 a foreign man. We outnumber you 3 to 1, guys. Out of those 27,000 women, a whopping two thirds, or 22,000 are from China, Korea and the Philippines. (10,000 Chinese, 7,000 Filipino and 5,000 Korean) That means there are 3 times as many foreign wives as foreign husbands in Japan, and two thirds of those are Asian, so I can offer you my voice as a Canadian wife but I do so only from a position of a tiny minority (but not as tiny as the men’s minority, and we all know the importance of size). My point is that maybe more foreign guys are actively dating Japanese women (sometimes multiple) and that could warrant the large number of articles dissing Japanese chicks in expat mags, but you can no longer pretend that you represent some kind of foreigner majority. I don’t know about you, but I am kind of tired of reading articles that mostly bleat out the woes and unfortunate plight of the unlucky foreign man caught up innocently in a difficult and incomprehensible relationship with a woman he barely understands. Are all men natural whiners? (only slightly worse than natural born killers, I guess) Judging from the sheer number of articles meticulously detailing the dating and high maintenance required of Japanese women, you would think there aren’t any other kinds of relationships in Japan. Time to get a few facts straight and put some perspective on all of this bellyaching! Are you with me, ladies? First of all, where are all the articles from the foreign ladies? Do they exist? Yes, we’ve come a long way baby, but when it comes to keeping the home and the babies, it basically still falls in our laps. We still have to raise, feed, clothe, entertain, discipline and educate our kids (and sometimes the men, too). I know a lot of you men help out around the house, but show me a

6 |RAN|

wonderful you were 10 times a day, that your fall from rock star status was that much harder now that your life is firmly rooted in relationship reality hell? We women never had it so good. At least we found somebody. Most of us could barely find someone willing to date, let alone marry us. Oh sure, there were plenty of stares and leering on the last train home on a Saturday night, but actually men who came up and chatted to us with serious relationships on their mind? I could probably count them on my fingers in my 12 years here, and my husband is one of them. Do you men have any idea how good you have it over here? Japanese women have great reputations outside of Japan, but Japanese men? Uh, not so spiffy. What’s it like to have a relationship with a Japanese man? On holidays back home old friends politely ask if I am still in Japan, then when they find out I’m married, politely ask if my husband is Japanese, then quite rudely say, “oh…”, and quickly change the subject as if they have trodden on some unspeakable issue and do not dare go any further. I can see they want to ask “Why?”, but most don’t. Once my answer was immediately followed with, “Aren’t all women in Japan treated like second class citizens?” I liked that one. Straight to the point. But it’s a good point, really. Japanese men are also known to be short, nerdy, chauvinistic, not well endowed, wishy-washy, mama’s boys. Now I hate to generalize, but if you think that it’s only Japanese men who have the above

qualities then clearly you haven’t been to the HUB on a Saturday night at 2:00 am. Not all the J-guys are like that and if they were, we wouldn’t have married them! Basically guys, it’s the same for us. There are tolerable relationships, nightmares, divorces left, right and center, child abductions, abuse, alcoholism and adultery in our lives, too. We have it no better or worse than you, maybe just a few more support networks floating around and women’s natural ability to glom together in tight situations and support each other. Th a t b e i n g s a i d , yo u m a r r y a t 2 4 , yo u p ay t h e consequences. Everyone is compatible at 24, right? But then most people mature, becomes more set in their ways, slowly inherit the cultural ways of thinking that we were brought up with…and are usually different from those of a partner in a cross cultural relationship. What was once exotic, endearing and adorable is years later freaking weird, nonsensical, annoying and insanely frustrating. You may begin to ask yourself what drew you to this alien being in the first place? (Oh, right…now you remember….) Well, chin up, men! Try to focus on the positive in life. Get in touch with your feminine side, stop whining about your relationships and Japanese women in general (or just stop trying to pick them up in seedy bars) or just give up and try another damn nationality. The difference for us women is that we know our relationships are sometimes crappy, but we just try to live with them anyway.

|RAN| 7

Times
I

Happier

A Japanese

| By Risa Chujo |

am a 40-year-old Japanese woman, living in a 3-story house with a big yard and big parking space for 5 cars, in the suburb of Nagoya, with husband, an 11-year-old daughter, and a 7-year-old son. I have been married for 13 years. I am a housewife and have been teaching English to little children to adults for 14 years… it sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, it must be…. My husband works hard 6days a week and earns our living enough, luckily I have my own lesson room in my house, and my children are healthy and enjoy their school lives. We should be happy …ostensibly, but the reality is…. not really. What is the happy family like for you? How should the ideal relationship between husband and wife be? Encounter with Husband I spent 4 years to go to college in the US. I enjoyed the life with my friends there, far away from my family and friends in Japan. I had some close friends, shared the house/ life/ thoughts, cared and supported each other. At that time, I had some boyfriends and lived together, but I was too young to think about marriage, so did not afford to turn the relationships into marriage. In 1994, at 24 years old, I came back to Japan, and then started working as an English teacher at a language school. In the very first class I had, he was there—he is my husband, 1 year older. He was just one of the students. I worked very hard to become a good teacher and saw him twice a week in the lessons. He was a punctual, hardworking student though he was not a quick learner. He had a purpose/goal to learn English, which was to do farm staying in NZ. I wanted him to have opportunities to see and learn something different and unknown in the world just as I got the chances in the US, so I supported him to make it true somehow. After his trip, we became closer, not as a student and a teacher, and started dating as a man and a woman. I believe it was 6 months later after we first met. Another half year later, he moved out of his parents’ house, and then I visited him frequently and soon started living together. It was not until I realized that I wanted to marry someone and to have a baby for. At that time he was reliable and sophisticated for me because he started working at the age of 18 and knew better about the system of the society. On the other hand, I was ignorant, Americanized, and selfish, but I tried hard to be his someone special and ideal; finished work and went home early to make time to share with him, did the housework and prepared dinner for him before going to work, and tried to accept his taste and interests even though they were not mine really. I believed it could be possible for me to accept anything about him if only I had a big LOVE for him. About 1 year later he asked to marry me, surely I accepted, and we got married in September 1997— I was 27. It was just the age to marry for the women of those days. More came to have higher educational backgrounds and careers. Also it’s getting common for them to continue working after getting married, and certainly I did. Marriage Life I think my husband is a very old typical Japanese man. Though he didn’t show/express LOVE so much, I felt his love, which was not the Romantic one I really expected though. He was nice, cared about me, and spoke well of me especially in front of his parents. Luckily they have been very kind to

me and liked me a lot. When I first met them, I felt sort of surprised they had the different family background, characters, lifestyle and rules from mine. From them he learned the men should; work and earn for family, not cook and do the housework, not talk while having meals, and not give a hand to raise children. In January 1999, our first daughter was born. All responsibility for raising and education were dumped on me just as it used to be common at his/my mother’s generation. Also I didn’t want to depend on anybody, even my husband and our parents, for everything because they could do, so I believed I could do myself. Probably I wanted to be regarded myself as a mother/person. All my interests and energy were shifting to my little angel gradually. Of course so my love was. As having more days and time spent with her in a small world, I started to think how I should live as a person and what I can/should give/tell her as a mother. I started teaching English to little children with her in the living room in April 2000, to have the place for learning/enjoying/ socializing through English. He is/was the man of few words, but he understood and supported my work at home. His life is basically the same as before, it has been well-regulated life even after our children’s births. However my life and roles have been changing a lot over time. Our first son was born in February 2003. Basically he was healthy, but until he became 6, he would have asthma attacks and I often had to drive him to the hospital even at midnight, when I had a fever of 38 degrees/lack of sleep. I was always stressed out and worn out for everything; teaching for long hours every evening, raising children, housework and yard work, being sociable in kindergarten/ school/neighborhood/mothers’ society etc... I just wanted my husband to share anything each of us faced on, communicate with words warmly/sincerely, without saying silly Japanese jokes. He likes enjoying his time for himself, not having interests to others, not like being involved someone’s trouble. Now, every moment, each day, I realize we each have different tastes. Three years have passed since I gave up communicating with him. My future and his future…. No one knows what’s happening in the future. However it is clear in my mind that I feel difficult to continue the present uncommunicative relationship. Also he seems to call off the fake relationship we keep. He and I are looking toward the different ways. Thanks for my children’s support and understanding, I can step forward to make each of us shape his/her own future. Recently I feel that I am the daughter of my mother. Probably I will take the same way as she did live and raise without husband’s help. I’m not sure that is the best way each of us will take – maybe not… it is not the only solution, it would be the best if we could communicate / understand / care / support / encourage / notice with love, trust, respect… and compromise. Even if you are Japanese or non-Japanese, you should keep in mind that you will have some possibilities to confront with invisible / unpredictable / ununderstandable reality to share the life with someone in your long life when you think of marriage -Love is blind. Husband and Wife should be the best partners and friends in a family, to take a journey of life, ‘Marriage’… I believe.

Love Story

8 |RAN|

B

efore trying to extoll the virtues of international coupling it's important to address a common misconception. A lot of friends have asked me for advice over the years about how to relate to Japanese women, assuming that since my wife is Japanese I must have it all figured out. The only wisdom I can hope to glean is anecdotal and highly subjective because the truth is, I don't know anything about Japanese women; All I know about is my wife, and even she is not without her mysteries. For nearly thirty years I have lived in this skin of mine and even so I am still often liable to act out of character, do something I could never have expected or otherwise surprise myself. If I know so little about own skin despite being privy to my most intimate and private thoughts, how much less can I ever hope to know about my partner? Magnify that gray area by the biggest number you know and it might come close to the inestimable perplexity of an entire people. To make broad sweeping generalizations about an entire national character is not only presumptuous but it ignores the beautiful diversity of the individual. As often as you may hear the phrase “we Japanese...” the simple truth is that in terms of personal ambition, strengths and weaknesses, dreams and fantasies, the Japanese people are as richly diverse as any other country in the world, even if they don't know it. So without over-generalizing or drawing unfounded conclusions, hopefully I can expose a softer light on the troubling world of international marriage. The myriad benefits of intercultural relationships should be quite obvious – sharing new types of cuisine, music, holidays and humor, learning each others language and culture, and sampling the variety that makes living on this planet so damn outstanding. It bears mentioning as well that the expected differences in culture are exaggerated. I am more often surprised by how similar Japan is to my home than by how different it is, and the same goes for the similarities and differences between my wife and me. Marrying outside of your own culture takes a great deal of courage, but the irony is that you are more likely to find a compatible partner that way. Those who are willing to shed the biases and stigma of

Time
in the
their own culture will most likely be more open-minded and understanding than those who cannot. The will to make such a leap speaks volumes to the character of the person, who is most likely adventurous and looking to experience new and different things. If both partners are willing to let go of some their own culture in order to gain a better understanding of another person's then the couple has that much better of a chance at surviving in the long run. Simply put, we are not that different. An obvious boon for intercultural couples that springs to mind is the freedom that comes with it. When both partners come from the same background there is an unspoken expectation that they will see eye-to-eye on most issues, after all why should they be different? The reality is everybody has a different perspective regardless of culture or class and most people will find plenty to disagree about. This disparity between expectations and reality causes quite a lot of cognitive dissonance for couples of the same cultural heritage, but for multicultural couples it's par for the course. In an intercultural relationship all the differences are laid out on the table from the get-go and a certain amount of variation is expected, even relished at times. The frustration of being unable to communicate between partners can be ascribed to language barriers, or cultural misunderstandings which acts like a pressure valve, easing tension because you can simply let it go. When it really gets fun however, is when you turn the gun on yourself and realize that some of the cultural attitudes you have held for so long are worth reexamining. An intercultural relationship is a good chance to let your hair down. When I got married to my wife and realized that Japanese has no real equivalent to English curse words I began to rethink why they exist in English in the first place, and eventually I was able to relax my attitude about them. Japanese culture has a much more healthy attitude about sexuality as well, without all the shy and bashful inhibitions I had as an American. In the same way I think I have helped my wife to see some of the more negative aspects of her own cultural perceptions. After several

Love
| By Adam Pasion |

of globalization

|RAN| 9

love in the time of

globalization... continued
years of marriage my wife is much better now at expressing herself and speaking her mind, even when her Japanese upbringing would tell her it was an inappropriate situation to do so. In a similar manner, there is a lot more you can get away with as a stranger to your partner's culture. My wife calls it “international power,” I call it “playing the ignorant foreigner card.” When the in-laws are having a discussion about something I don't care to respond to, I can simply pretend I don't understand. When I do something stupid or irresponsible, there is usually a bit more grace since they assume I don't understand the finer aspects of Japanese social graces (if they only knew!) Naturally these things can become irritating if you let them. Once when I was crossing the street and didn't feel like waiting for the light to turn green, my mother-in-law was quick to remind me “In Japan we wait for the light to change.” I could have been annoyed and told her that simply wasn't true, or that it had nothing to do with nationality, but instead I took it in stride and laughed about it. The less you let yourself get annoyed by such things the more successful your relationship will be. The benefits become more quantifiable once children enter the picture, most obviously with the children having a higher chance at being bilingual. But is being bilingual really so important? The simple answer in my opinion is no. Bilingualism is highly overrated, most especially in Japan. As a matter of fact children who grow-up bilingual are the greatest testament to just how unimportant it really is, since they are living proof that at least one of the parents was able to be successful in a country where they were not a native speaker. If a person is able not only to find a partner but start a family in a foreign country, I consider that an unequivocal success; a success accomplished without the advantage of being bilingual. What is so often overlooked is the benefit of children being raised in a multicultural home. Raising a child with pluralist value systems, two distinct cultural perspectives, and two patterns of social awareness broadens and enriches the mind in unparalleled ways. This is a sort of hybrid engineering in a pedagogical sense. Combining traditional traits like a disciplined Japanese mind and awareness of an individuals place in society with the cavalier and outspoken character typical of Americans can create a well rounded and well balanced human being able to be at ease in any situation. It allows parents to weed out negative traits and reinforce positive ones, not physically but culturally. How cool is that? Of course no relationships, intercultural or otherwise are without their stresses and problems. Adding disparate worldviews into the mix places stress on the relationship, but it also relieves pressure. In the end people are people, and the individual personalities of each partner will affect things much more than any cultural attitude ever could. Mixing cultures doesn't alleviate the problem, but being able to expect problems and accept them helps you to deal with them in a much healthier way. Who knows, you could even come to enjoy the differences.

Take my advice, taste the rainbow.

PAGODA DIARIES

T

| Story and pictures by EJP |
his stop has proved to be a boring delay in a life that’s too boring already, and you’re ready to leave after the obligatory beer for which you’ve waited so patiently and so long, but just now a small handful of people comes in. Three guys and a girl, all in their late 20s or so. All drunk. All noisy. The girl comes right up to you and starts up a pleasant conversation. She’s Japanese. She’s gorgeous. This doesn’t surprise you. It also doesn’t excite you. She’s speaking English. It’s a free lesson for her. She’s not interested in you. She’s interested in English. She’s married to one of the guys she came in with and she takes you to join their table. Her name is Chie. This means wisdom. What a cool name. Why don’t Americans name their kids things like wisdom, you wonder. Who knows what kind of positive effect that could have on a country in crisis? Anyway, she’s friendly and polite. So is her husband, a Kiwi named Nigel. You can’t help but notice that she speaks at least half Japanese to him. He’s been in Japan some three and a half years. His Japanese sucks. You have a tendency to judge people—that means nonJapanese people, again. It means English speakers who look like English speakers. It means Westerners. It means white people. See how ridiculous you are—you have a tendency to judge them based on how long they’ve been in Japan and how well they speak Japanese. In fact, there’s an unspecific equation you calculate in your mind to come up with a rough ratio of competency over time. It isn’t science, but it works, and you’ve noticed you’re not the only one who uses it. So do most gaijin who live here and actually study the language— and those gaijin who don’t study the language brag effusively about that fact, as if laziness and ambivalence are virtues; the sad thing being, for gaijin in Japan, these are not only virtues, they are virtual requirements for acceptance and success here. Okay. You’re exaggerating a bit now. You’re angst and insecurity are getting the best of you. But it certainly seems that way sometimes. It is true that Japanese are strangely suspicious of non-Japanese people who show too much familiarity with their language and customs. And by nonJapanese people here, you mean white people. Gaijin are white people. Chinese, Koreans and other Asians don’t fit into this equation. When they come to Japan they’re required to learn Japanese, and they do learn it fast. They can’t function here without it. White people aren’t allowed to function with it. You can’t say for sure why any of this is. The Japanese do not themselves know why it is. You think you know, but in fact, Professor Roy Andrew Miller’s persuasive arguments in Japan’s Modern Myth about the Japanese and their unusual love-hate relationship with the Japanese language aside, it seems beyond explanation. It seems beyond comprehension. But for a gaijin here, so often it seems that nothing succeeds like incompetence. Act like a helpless child here and invariably some Japanese person with presumably good

Chris

THE

intentions will step up and treat you like one. Lots of gaijin here have turned this into a lifetime plan. Japan is the perfect place for a white man with few or no abilities, and the country abounds with them. This is not a secret. It’s too obvious to be kept secret. Also, it doesn’t apply to all gaijin. You know some brilliant gaijin here. But as long as you’re on this subject, you might as well be honest—one good theory is that gaijin who do have abilities also have enough sense to get the hell out of here after a year or two. Gaijin who bother to learn the Japanese language leave after about seven years. They leave in frustration because now that they’ve gone to the trouble of learning the language they discover that no Japanese person in his right mind will actually converse with him in it. Anyway, the proficiency over time equation—as inappropriate as it may sound, there is some utility in it. The Swiss, German, Czech, Hungarian, seemingly unsure of where the hell he’s from, asshole with a vague British accent who has come in with Chie and Nigel serves in the present moment to support this notion. He’s a moron. He’s ignorant, at least about Japan, and too foolish to know it. He’s an arrogant, noisome, unbearable ass. It takes you about three minutes to figure this out. Unfortunately, however, in those three minutes you have already bought him a beer. So you’re a moron too. You ask him how long he’s been here. He tells you three months. What does he do? He’s an artist? That’s cool. It so happens that you work at an art school, yourself. You know lots of artists. What kind of art does he do? He’s not sure. At least he’s not able to express it in a way that makes you the least bit sure what he does, and call it arrogance, but if the answer to a question as simple as this one doesn’t make sense to you, you figure, is just doesn’t make sense, period. You’re drunk and you’re dumb. But you’re not completely stupid. Still, you’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s drunk too, after all. You try to give him an exit strategy. “Well, good luck with it,” you say. He says, “Energy.” You don’t know what that means, even—energy. But if he can’t describe what kind of art he does, you can’t help but wonder how he’s able to earn a living at it, because if there’s one thing all your years around artists has taught you it’s that an artist’s earnings are directly related to his ability to market his work. And that, you’re sure, requires a specific awareness on the artist’s part of exactly what it is he can do, as well as a keen ability to describe it. And this fellow, you figure, lacking both of these, isn’t likely making a dime with whatever artistic abilities he may actually posses. “Are you here on some sort of grant?” you ask him. “Where are you working?” He’s completely unemployed. He doesn’t have a dime. So he’s not really an artist? He just wants to be an artist? What kind of artist does he want to be? He’s going to figure that out here in Japan.

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tian s
“I see,” you say. And, regretting the beer you’ve bought him, you start looking around for somebody else to talk to, or simply some reason not to talk at all. Now you need an exit strategy of your own. “Japan is easy,” he says. “It’s all about energy. Everything is energy.” You’ve heard this before. It may even be true. But you’re not a physicist. And neither is he. “Energy, man, energy.” This asshole’s name is Christian, and he thinks the Japanese word for energy is tamashi. It’s not. It’s not even close to that. Neither you nor he has any idea what he’s talking about. Though you seem to be the only one bothered by this. You ask if you can take his photo. You want a record of this guy, just so you won’t wake up in the morning believing it was all a dream. “Sure” he says. “Go ahead.” Then, when you point the camera at him he sticks his hand up in front of his face. “Energy man,” he says again. He’s afraid of an energy drain from his being into your camera. This begs the question, why did he agree to let you take his photo in the first place? He wasn’t thinking. And what he means by this, of course, is that he wasn’t remembering how, in the three months he’s been here, he has reinvented, redesigned and reengineered himself into somebody he himself doesn’t recognize. Thus, he can’t tell you with any certainty where he’s from, what kind of art he wants to do, or what on earth he’s doing in Japan in the first place, besides getting drunk. On your dime. You’ve seen about a million of these guys over the years. You normally just write it off as culture shock. And that’s normally what it is. These issues arise here. In fact, culture shock is a long recognized and well-studied phenomenon. It’s severity and degree, of course, vary among individuals, but you’ve never known anybody to come here and not suffer one form of it or another. It expresses itself in a certain paradigm of symptoms and stages, the first and most salient of which is a period of euphoria knows as the honeymoon stage. This is where Christian is. You went through this yourself. You went through the entire cycle. But you were lucky. You came here fully developed and satisfied with who you were. Well, okay, you exaggerate again, but if not entirely satisfied with who you were, you were at least willing to admit who you were, where you were from, what you did for a living. You were willing to be who you were, whether you liked it or not. Christian isn’t. He isn’t even aware of who he is. He’s like a child. He’ll do well here. Never mind that he’s thirty. He may go on just like this forever. He’s in the right place for it. It’s all about energy man. When you arrived in Japan the average period of contract for a native English teacher here was a year. You came on a one-year contract, yourself. Everybody did. Few lasted the whole year. The average stay was only eight months. You don’t

know what the statistics are now—the situation has changed so much it may even be impossible to measure. You had no idea you would be here this long. Had anybody told you so, you would have laughed. Or you would have cried. But gaijin like Christian often end up staying here a long time before the ongoing lie that is their lives finds them out. There is simply no reality where Christian’s living! He’s lost. You’ve seen lots of gaijin recreate themselves here. Lots of them are lost. They don’t know where they are. They don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t even remember who they were before they came. Or they don’t know. Or more likely they just don’t want you to know. So they make up something. Often, they make up a new version of themselves. You’ve seen it a million times. The reinvented gaijin! Come to Japan and pretend to be whatever you want to be. Nobody will ever know. And nobody will ever care enough to try to find out. It’s all about energy, man. This guy’s full of shit. Why not just go forward from where you are you want to ask him. Even if it isn’t where he wants to be, it’s better than being nowhere. But fuck him. It’s none of your business. Energy. He asks where you’re from. You tell him. “Oh wow, man. Japanese hate Americans,” he says. It’s not true though, and it shows how little he knows about the place. Japanese don’t hate Americans any more than they hate Swiss, German, Czech, Hungarian, seemingly unsure of where the hell they’re from, assholes like him. In the Japanese mind a gaijin is a gaijin is a gaijin and it matters little or nothing where the gaijin is from. What particular country any particular gaijin is from is no more than a mere curiosity rooted in the first month or two of jr. high school English education—Where are you from? But nobody really gives a shit. All white people are created equal and they’re all regarded the same. White people are either somebody to speak English with or somebody to ignore. You have heard the occasional Japanese person say he hates gaijin. But even that, you don’t hear often. And truly, you’ve never heard a single Japanese person say he hates Americans. Nor Germans, nor Swiss, nor Czechs, nor Hungarians. As you said earlier, hate is a word rarely used here. You’re certain Christian has never heard it. Rather, he’s probably just said it a lot, and never found a Japanese person rude enough to disagree with him. And now you’re almost certain that Christian is not German, Swiss, Czech nor Hungarian. He’s English like his accent. Nobody hates America, after all, like the English. Not even the Afghanis. Nigel finds a guitar in a corner somewhere and starts in playing a Nirvana song. Then an Oasis song. Then a Green Day song. He’s a child of the 90s. Everybody in the bar seems to be, except you and Sean, and they all sing along. This is your chance. It’s your exit opportunity. Christian’s singing. You sing too: Sometimes I give myself the creeps. Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me. You detect a void in the energy field and slip through it in the direction of the bar where you get caught up visiting with Sean. By visiting, you mean saying thank you and goodbye. But in fact, you don’t leave. Chie comes back to the bar and asks where you’re going to be in two days. There’s a big beach party going on. You need to be there, she thinks. Maybe you’ll come back for it, you

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lie. In a couple of days you’re going to be in Beppu, or maybe Kumamoto, if you can ever get out of Sean’s place. But you can’t. Chie asks for your phone number. Like she’s ever going to call you. Fat chance. But you go through the motions. You give her your number. You get hers. Then you get her email address. She says she wants to keep in touch. Fat chance there, too. But you tell her to mail you anytime. She says if you can’t make it to the beach party in a couple of days, she’ll invite you to the one next year. It’s an annual event. You’d love to go to it. Yes, next year, you tell her. Fat chance, again. You drink another beer, as if that’s something you need, then another, and you visit with Chie while her husband goes on singing. This begins to seem strange to you. You move back to the table and take a photo of Nigel holding the guitar in his lap. You point your camera at Christian again, but he catches you and throws his hand in front of his face. Energy. He’s still talking, but to whom you have no idea. Certainly nobody is listening. Or so you think. But you’re wrong. He’s saying, “Let’s go to Seigo” and inside of ten minutes that’s where you are— you and Nigel and him. Seigo is the name of another local bar and you’re sitting there having another beer. Chie has wisely gone home and you suspect there has been a fight between her and her husband—the nonverbal kind that only married people are capable of. But you’re the sensitive type. You’re afraid Nigel might be angry with her for spending so much of the evening visiting with the likes of you. You ask him if everything’s okay. Oh sure. Chie has to work in the morning. Poor girl. It’s already 2:00 a.m. Now you’re sitting beside another Japanese woman. Her name is Atsuko. She has black, artificially curled hair, black eyes, straight teeth and a pure, natural, happy smile. She’s gorgeous too. The country’s full of gorgeous girls. But this one is also with somebody. You’re just not sure who she’s with. You’re drunk and you’re dumb, but you’re not completely stupid. Did you already say that? Well. You’re drunk. You’re dumb. But as long as you can still speak you can still read what’s in the air, and what’s in the air here at Seigo is that Atsuko is with somebody. Never mind the way she’s got her hands on your arm, stroking the hair there like you’re a panda or something. This is another thing you’ve experienced a million times here—people petting the hair on your arms. It doesn’t happen so often these days, but in the past it was an almost daily occurrence. Even university professors, both men and women, have stroked your arms and made comments, generally telling you that it feels good! Japanese are intrigued by body hair. They’re also a little bit repulsed by it. In fact, one of the early words for Europeans was ketojin. This is an old word and it’s rarely heard these days. It’s very derogatory. A direct translation for it would be hairy Chinaman! Like Chinamen are unusually hairy people? And like that would be you—a hairy Chinaman? But language isn’t math. Inexplicable things happen all the time in the corpus of linguistics. This is an awkward situation for you. Being petted feels good, of course, even in this context, as sad as that may sound, but it’s also off putting. You know nobody’s trying to be rude, but you can’t help feeling like an animal. A brute. A hairy Chinaman? And as much as you like the feeling of this woman’s hands on you, you entertain no doubt about it—she’s

with somebody. And he’s close-by. “No touch,” you hear somebody say in a loud voice. Oh shit! Here it comes, you think. And you haven’t even done anything. You were just sitting here minding your own business when Atsuko came up and sat beside you with a dish of peanuts and dried squid. You’ve hardly even said anything to her. And now she was touching you. You weren’t touching anybody. This is the story of your life here. You haven’t done a goddamn thing. But somebody’s pissed off. You don’t need to do anything to piss people off. You don’t need to do anything but be yourself, that is. It comes natural for you. You have a way with people. It just isn’t the right way. “Dare mo sawattenai zo!” you say, almost desperately, throwing your hands in the air. I aint touching anybody. “Though I have been eating her squid,” you add sheepishly. “Ika okei. Tachi ha dame,” the voice says in that familiar mixture of Japanese and bad English that you encounter every single day of your life. Ika means squid. Okei, of course, means okay. Tachi means touch. It’s one of thousands of English words that have entered the lexicon quite recently. Dame means bad. That fucking word again. It’s the word parents use with their children. It’s the word dog owners use with their dogs. And it’s the word everybody uses with you. Any Western visitor to Japan needs to learn this word almost immediately. Next to gaijin it’s the word he’ll here most often here. He better get used to it. “That’s right,” you say, brushing Atsuko’s hand off of your arm. “Tachi ha dame!” You pretend to be indignant. Atsuko bows her head and says “sumimasen deshita.” Forgive me. You laugh. Atsuko laughs. All the regular customers at the bar laugh. Then Seigo, the owner of the bar as well as the loud, admonishing voice, laughs too. Everybody laughs but Nigel and Christian who have no idea what has even transpired. Typical gaijin. This is the way most conflict ends in Japan. A momentary laugh is worth more here than an hour of anger—a fact that you all too often forget—and in a matter of minutes Atsuko is stroking the hair on your arm again. All is well. The universe is how it should be. Except, of course, that it’s late. And you’re drunk. And you have that perplexing maze of shoots and ladders to navigate back to your hotel room before you sleep. Seigo, the bar, has a Rastafarian feeling all the way from the art on the walls to the red knit cap on Seigo, the man’s, head. Never mind that it’s July in the tropics. Seigo, the man, proves to be a nice fellow and you visit with him briefly. He tries to share Atsuko’s excitement about the revelation that you’re a genuine live half-pagoda-nerd on a nationwide adventure with not a care in the world and hardly a schedule, but pagodas just aren’t his thing. He has other interests. Rather more Rastafarian ones, you learn. He thinks Buddhism is an embarrassing blight on the national makeup. He’s certainly not the first Japanese person to entertain that notion, you tell him. There have been lots. Then you tell him you’ve been to a small island in the Inland Sea where there is a small temple with a Rastafarian theme not unlike the one at Seigo, the bar. It has a Rastafarian knit hat with attached dreadlocks on the statue of the Buddhist saint there, and at the altar, there are carefully placed cans of tropical fruit drinks

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and Georgia Coffee. He’s not impressed. Not as impressed as he is with the hair on your arms anyway, and like Atsuko, he reaches out and strokes you too. You take a photo of him. Then you ask him to take a photo of you and Atsuko. She is looking warmly at him. You are looking at her. This will turn out to be one of your favorite photos of yourself on this trip. Like everybody else, you tend to look better in the presence of a beautiful woman. You love this country. Three seats down the bar Christian is talking with a salary man. This is definitely a go nowhere situation, and though they both seem perfectly content, you don’t want any part of it. But as soon as Atsuko gets up and goes behind the bar the salary man turns to you and starts speaking English. Well, he thinks it’s English. He says, “Are you from?” This sounds like a simple yes or no question, except that it doesn’t mean anything. It’s stupid Japanese English for “Where are you from?” Never mind that this salary man already knows where you’re from. Everybody in the bar knows where you’re from, where you live, what you are—a half-pagoda-nerd—and what you’re doing in Miyazaki. You’ve been the sole center of attention here since Atsuko started stroking the hair on your arm, and you’ve already explained everything. This is Japan. Self-introduction is a ritual here. Once one person gets the stage, he has to hold it at least for a few minutes. If he doesn’t, he’ll be bombarded with questions till the ritual has been completed. And you’ve just gone through all of this. There is absolutely no reason for the salary man to wonder, much less ask you, where you’re from! For a moment you consider telling him Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, you’re not sure, but you don’t. You just tell him calmly that you’re from Oregon. He already knows that anyway. It would be hard to start reinventing yourself now. Christian wants you to ask this guy why he’s speaking English to you. “I’m not going to ask him that,” you say. “I already know why he’s speaking English to me. I know and he doesn’t. So there’s absolutely no point in me asking him.” So Christian asks him. It takes about two minutes and help from Nigel to get the question across to the guy. Not because he can’t understand the words of the question—with a little effort, even the worst English speakers in Japan can understand the words involved here. He just doesn’t understand the gist of it. The question doesn’t begin to make sense to him, nor to the 125 million other Japanese people here. He can’t begin to answer. But you can. He’s doing it because you’re a gaijin. You’re white. It’s as simple as that. The bare bones act of communication has nothing whatsoever to do with it. “How long Japan?” he asks you. He’s not interested in talking to Christian any longer. Christian is a moron, but he can’t speak this brand of moronic English. He doesn’t have the years of experience with it that you have. Also, Christian asks too many difficult questions. Salary men like this are not interested in listening to English. They know they can’t understand English. What’s amazing is that they don’t also know they can’t speak it. But that fact never seems to bother them. You suppose the things they say make perfect sense to them. But they sure don’t want to field any questions. Questions are too difficult for them.

And now this question is too difficult for you. How long Japan, for the love of god? About 3500 kilometers from north to south, you want to tell him. But you don’t. He wouldn’t get it anyway. He wouldn’t even understand the words. There are viable linguistic reasons for this. Numbers are difficult in any foreign language, and kilometer is another word that’s been imported from English. He thinks the word he knows for kilometer is an English word, but it’s pronounced so differently in Japanese that the original English version of the word would be completely unrecognizable to him. But it doesn’t matter anyway, because what he wants to know is how long you’ve been here. He wouldn’t believe you if you told him. And if he did believe you, it would only upset him. He would pout. You tell him “too long.” You say this in English. He says “Eh? One more.” You’ve just given him a twoword answer to his three-word question, and he wants you to repeat yourself. This is typical of English conversations with salary men in bars, and you have to ask yourself, what on earth are you doing in this damn place at 3:30 in the morning. Nigel’s okay. Seigo’s okay. They’re like most people; they’re nice enough. You can take them or leave them. But Christian’s an ass. The salary man’s a bore. All the salary men lined up at the bar are bores. Maybe everybody out at this time of night is a bore, and the only one in the bar who still interests you is Atsuko, but she has long since lost all of her interest in the hair on your arms and moved back behind the bar. The scene is depressing, and face it, the most depressing part of it is you. You’ve known since midnight that you weren’t having any fun with these people. You get up to leave. As you exit the bar you discover why Christian thinks tamashi is the Japanese word for energy. Seigo is standing behind the bar holding a fist in the air like a Black American athlete at the 68 Olympics. This is apparently his way of bidding you goodnight. He solemnly says “tamashi.” This is the Japanese word for spirit, or soul. Christian looks at him with a respect that borders on admiration and says, “Spot on man. Energy. Everything’s energy.” You don’t think he even notices that you’ve left.

PAGODA DIARIES
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THE

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A Tal e of r s o Da nc e Tw

D

| Story and pictures by Jason L Gatewood |
ance. It’s sometimes called the purest expression of emotion. The rhythmic exhibition of visual, physical, and performing art. In just a few moves, a dancer can convey hopelessnes and hope. Violence and peace. Sadness and joy. Most people from outside Japan already know about the more traditional forms of Japanese dance most often seen during O-Bon and matsuri periods during the year. But that’s not the dance being performed at any of the local hangouts around town, right? In our first issue, we examined the phonomenon known as “Glass Dancing” where young folks gather around the large windows of certain skyscrapers on the sidewalk and practice dance all night. This time we go a little more in depth with two dancers from the area and talk about dance in their own words.

Yuri Mizutani (21) Hometown: Kuwana, Mie
First Impression: I was into Namie Amuro when I was around 12 years old. The dancing, the moves in her videos, and also the music were something so different from other J-pop music; it was sexy. Other Activites: I’m into anything dealing with music really. I enjoy listening to music and seeing concerts and DJ events. I like to go out to clubs and dance when I have time. I guess dance is my life. I was a shy kid. A really shy kid. I couldn’t really talk to someone I didn’t know easily, and even with friends, I had trouble expressing details... I felt like I had a lot to say, but didn’t know how to say it. But when I danced, I could put all my energy into it. I can be real with myself and others around me. When I started high school, I started getting very interested in American pop artists like Janet Jackson and Brittney Spears. Their music was more forceful, and more direct. The beat makes your body want to move. Before I knew it, my friends were introducing me to others that wanted to dance too, so I became a dance intructor when I was 19 years old. I felt I had to see how Americans were dancing to their own music, so I worked two jobs and only slept 3 hours a day to save the money to go to Los Angeles. There I studied hip-hop and r&b dance for 2 months. I really want to go back to learn more, but I need to save again!

Asako Saito (27) Hometown: Nagoya
First Impression: I was into SMAP as a little kid. I know what some think about “Idol” groups in Japan, but remember, these people are on stage 5-6 days a week. They dance, sing, and act. I guess they have to be smart too--They go on lots of game shows as guest talent (wink). Other Activites: Tennis and drawing. I am really into drawing actually. It’s very relaxing. I started dancing in university actually... I guess most people who are serious about it usually start much earlier. So I did feel a little out-classed when I went to class at first. But the others around me really supported me, especially the more experienced members. So I’d attend class 3 times a week. Eventually I became very serious about it and decided to go to Vancouver, Canada for summer dance camps and also enroll in a professional dance school as well. In my second dance competition, I recieved second place; Silver medal! Ever since that debut, I’ve been doing whatever I can to increase my skill. Since I also majored in English during college, I also took a chance at going to New York City and taking dance classes there too. As a semi-professional dancer, I really enjoy training students. It’s like I’m giving them the chance to enjoy something I truely love. I have other friends that perform more often, but since I work a “regular” job, I usually only perform once or twice a year.
Where you can catch her: I give lesso ns every W ednesday a Dance Spa t ce Vib, at 1 :30 ~ 3pm at Nagoya and Studio 200 in Sakae.

Where you can catch her: o, Mie at the I teach 4 days a week in Kawagoe-ch e. If you’re lucky, community sports center ther s around the you can also catch me at some club Chukyo area as well!

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T ha| i l a n d M o n ! ha uchen
| By TDHo

Go

行きや

L

isten, if you’e been considering where to spend some time this coming Christmas vacation, I’d HIGHLY recommend you purchase a ticket to THAILAND. Prices have never been better, and Thailand is a HELLUVA LOT OF FUN. It’s a tropical paradise the likes of any island in the West Indies, but with a decidedly Asian atmosphere. This ancient paradise is like having a giant Jamaica smack dab in the Orient. It’s a 3 hour flight from Nagoya, the food is ridiculously delicious and CHEAP, as is almost every and anything you could think of. There are tons of wild, crazy, fun, exciting, erotic, eye-popping and interesting activities, and the Thai people are extremely polite, eager to please, and a lot more outgoing than Japanese. Thai people love to party, and they know you are there to have a good time- they want to have a good time with you. I went to Thailand last summer and rode an elephant across the backlands and over some mountain that overlooked the Pacific. I was terrified. I’m terrified of most things I guess. My tour guide/elephant-driver dude was a comedian, he GOT OFF THE ELEPHANT and left me up there by myself, on the edge of some seaside mountain, with this 2-ton animal underneath me, a kid from Brooklyn, and I WAS PETRIFIED. Dude laughed his skinny Thai ass off while I screamed like a bitch as the elephant shook and shimmied until I thought he’d collapse and we’d go careening down the mountainside into the Pacific. He didn’t. We ‘toured’ the mountainside and saw authentic villages of Thai people living in houses and villas on the mountain. I had a conversation with a cute Chinese girl who was also visiting while we both rode separate elephants. Sexy. Fun. Elephants. You Should Learn. Also saw Thai boxing, which was kick-ass, no pun

intended. I saw 10 fights over a 2 or 3 hour span in a sweltering hot stadium slightly outside of Phuket. The audience was as entertaining as the fights, people from all over the world, beer, it was a truly visceral experience. Apparently, Thai people controlled violence. Made my way back into town around midnight, the streets were packed with people on mopeds, walking, driving, etc. It was a cross between South Beach, Montego Bay, downtown New York City and Bangkok all rolled into one. The beach was always no more than a 10-minute moped ride away, the clubs were ALL open until daybreak, the streetlife was erotic, hot, spicy, and mind-bogglingly entertaining. Thai is a place where people KNOW what they are there for, and they get it in. The vendors, restaurant and bar owners, and hotel staff were all very friendly. Keep in mind that in Thailand, you can bargain for better prices than you see. Try talking them down, but truth is, you don’t have to, prices are already very very cheap for almost anything. On the day before my departure day, I took a speedboat trip to Phi Phi Island (location of the movie “The BEACH” with Leo DiCaprio), parasailed, gorged on delicious tropical Thai food, relaxed on a pristine beach with see-thorugh aquamarine waters, and puffed a funny cigarette with the tour guide on top of a hut, with a Mai Tai on the table next to me. It was brilliant. The weather is tropical all-year-round. The hotels are MUCH CHEAPER THAN YOU THINK, the strong yen allows you a fantastic exchange for the Thai “Baht”, and YOU DESERVE A BREAK. Make it to Thailand before you leave Asia, you’ll thank me later.

NAGOYA I D E C L UB G U
“Yo, what’s poppin’ tonight? Where are you going….?”
Here’s Where: Lots of Nagoya folks seem to think there isn’t much in the way of interesting nightlife here. They’re Wrong. There are indeed quite a few spots for dancing the night away located just a train or bike ride away. And if you’re not into dancing, just want to stretch out somewhere, have a few drinks, listen to some tunes, and have the opportunity to wild out, we’re waiting for you on the outside. Get out of your apartment tonight. Nagoya is a very transportation friendly city. Everything is pretty much walking distance between each other, lots of clubs are located in a cluster around certain areas. Toshincho, Sakae, Fushimi, Imaike, Shinakae, these are the areas to go get your groove on and get it in Nagoya style. This may not be a definitive list, but it’s pretty close. Go out. Meet someone. Dance. Have fun. Right About Now. tdh STEPS - www.steps-nagoya.net/info/1.html 052-2427544 In Sakae, STEPS bills itself as a “Sports, Music, and Restaurant Bar”, and it is. Plus, Pole Dancers, great food and friendly staff. STEPS is a cozy small spot to fall into 7 nights a week. Open until 6am daily. ID Café - www.idcafe.info 052-251-0382 Also in Sakae, ID is actually a multi-genre club. The 3rd floor is usually the most busy however, because that’s where the Hip Hop pounds. If you’re into a wild, packed, over-zealous crowd desperate to get their groove on no matter what, ID is for you. An experience for sure. 1st floor is techno. 2nd is mostly bar space. 3rd is hip hop. 4th is 80’s, or whatever the djs are into that night. 5th is hip hop/reggae/ rnb. See ‘Thomas’ at the door. That’s my nucca. ABIME 2030 - www.abime.info 052-951-4155 In Sakae, Abime recently changed format from being a techno club to a more hip hop friendly sound, as well as having killed a long held policy which didn’t allow foreigners inside. Now, just bring your ID and you’re in. Large modern space near Sunshine Sakae. Club Shelter- www.club-shelter.com 052-242-8030 Off in the cut behind the Chunichi Building, Shelter is mostly Japanese hip hop djs, but also features house, electro, RnB, etc. 3rd floor, same building as Arena. Ozon/Spiral – www.ozon.jp.com This is a dual-club enterprise located in Sakae near Wakamiya Park. Upstairs, Spiral is a small sound room where live acts, such as wanna-be RnB singers and rappers, do their thing, downstairs, OZON is a large warehouse-style club with a huge stage. These two spots are popular with young Japanese and area blast to fall inside once in a blue moon.

HIP HOP
CREAM BAR - info@bar-cream.com 052-261-1766 Located In Sakae. If you like your club night CRUNK and THICK, CREAM is the spot. Open until 6am, CREAM gets packed with an international crowd. Rowdy and rawkus, exactly like a hip hop club should be. DJ G gets wreck on the decks. Other nice DJs as well. Fall in. The Underground - www.underground.co.jp/index. html The Underground is actually a three-club conglomeration located on three floors in Toshincho. The three clubs which make up this conglomerate are Lush/052-242-1388, Cypher/052-264-9603, and SoulGround/052-241-7366. Upon visiting the website for The Underground, one immediately notices a WARNING which reads- “foreign men who have no women will not be allowed entry”-they’re serious. If you want to see how the Japanese hip hop set gets down, bring a girl. Mostly east coast authentic hip hop beats, old school, and the clubs get rammed. Worth it.

Rock
Electric Ladyland - ell@ell.co.jp 052-201-5004 Named after the legendary Jimi Hendrix studio and album, this Osu gem features hardcore/thrash metal/emo/goth and other genres. Pretty exclusively Jaapnese, however foreigners are welcome to check out the scene. Club Quattro - www.club-quattro.com No phone number available. Quattro is located in the Parco Building in Sakae. It’s a large rock club that often features world famous artists, along with local favorites in several genres.

20 |RAN|

Diamond Hall - www.diamond-hall.com 052-265-2665 I ride my bike down Hirokoji Dori a lot, and at night on any given night, right before I hit Sakae, there are always dozens of young Japanese wearing black spilling out of Diamond hall after seeing some thrashy guitar show. I think. Either way, Diamond hall and sister venue Apollo Theater are large “halls” where you can get your rock kicks off. Kick rocks off. Something. Heartland - www.theheartlandstudio.co.jp No number available. This place is located underneath The Hard Rock Café, which, if you haven’t heard, is closing it’s doors at the end of this year. Be sure to come out to our ALL STAR JAM in December. Anyway, Heartland features Japanese hardcore, DK, and other genres. Huck Finn - www.huckfinn.co.jp 052-733-8347 Located on Imaike’s backstreets, Huck Finn has two floors, ground floor usually features more folksy, acoustic, organic stuff, basement has the edgier, grittier, punkier fare. Saw a cute Japanese female acoustic duo on the ground floor one night singing Christmas songs with an accordion. The Bottom Line – www.bottomline.co.jp 052 741 1620 Legendary Imaike big hall where famous acts as versatile as Ice Cube and Brian Setzer have graced the large stage in the cavernous hall. Must see if you live in Nagoya, at least once. Seriously.

space where all kinds of beat minimalism plus dark arts take place, electro/house/techno/breakbeats/dubstep/dnb. Machine Gun Beats. Plastic Factory – ww.plasticfactory.jp 090-2346-1682 Located on the backstreets of Imaike, Plastic Factory is a Nagoya Institution. This large space run by ‘Heinz’ caters to an eclectic mixed crowd, multi-genred music, also be sure to peep the upstairs artspace constructed by the hands of Heinz himself. Last Sunday monthly is Nagoya’s famous “Harmonium Parlour”, open mic for semi-serious and hosted by Semion. Couches and an arthouse feel. Nice.

REGGAE
Roots Vibes - 050-1381-6425 This Rasta decorated roots spot is in Toshincho, open until early morning hours serving delicious food, exotic drinks, and booming reggae beats provided by the infamous JFox-and a host of rotating DJ’s and artists, sometimes world famous reggae artists can be seen at the bar, Yamibolo was there one evening I stopped in to holla at Fox.. Stop in and get your vibe on. Authentic. (As of this writing, ROOTS VIBES has temporarily closed it’s doors, but we included it anyway because we know it’ll reopen somewhere, sometime, somehow..) Club Buddha - www.clubbuddha.com 052-251-5450 Small space located in Shinsakae featuring live bands, djs, dub, roots and culture reggae. Cramped but nice. R A D I X - w w w. r a d i x . t o 0 5 2 - 3 3 2 - 0 0 7 3 L o c a t e d underneath the Tsurumai line, RADIX has a world class sound system and regularly attracts world famous DJs and artists, along with a hyped crowd. Radix is a true club goer’s club, the bass forces it’s way through your body. Go. Here. Soon. Also hip hop/techno/house, check the website to find out. PLUS PARK - www.plus-park.com 052-261-1173 Plus Park is another of those multi-genre clubs, featuring hip hop/reggae/r-n-b etc. It bills itself as a “sports/music/ amusement” space. Large and well-equipped, located in Sakae, Plus Park is a new addition to Nagoya’s nightlife scene. Features well-known live hip hop and r-n-b acts regularly. Nice spot. Open late. Club Zion – www.clubzion.gionsound.jp/scadule 052 339 2331 Reggae spot near Kamimaezu, haven’t been. Don’t know. You tell me..

HOUSE/DANCE/ELECTRO
Arena - FACEBOOK/arenadanceclub/052-252-7020Located in Toshhincho. Small but lively intimate after hours club. Located in the same building as hip hop club “Shelter”, on the 2nd floor. Recently growing in popularity as a result of Andy Snadden’s weekend House Jams. Check it out. Mago - info@club-mago.co.jp 052-243-1818 Located in Shinsakae, probably the most famous of all Nagoya House Music spots. Large beautiful club. About - www.club-about.com 052-243-5077 Located in Toshincho. Friendly after hours spot with a great lounge. Emporium - www.theemporium.jp/ 052-262-7027 Located in Sakae. Gorgeous plush 9th floor club known for beautiful classy women and a great sound system. Might be hard to get in if you’re with a bunch of guys. Dress nice and look cool. Go solo. Club JB’s - www.club-jbs.jp 052-241-2234 Located in the Toshincho club cluster, JB’s is consistently voted one of the world’s premier clubs. House Music isn’t all that’s on offer here, but House is a consistent genre with some of the world’s top House DJ’s taking turns on the decks. Guaranteed great night out here. Holds upwards of 300 souls. Domina - info@cafe-domina.com 052 264 3134 Domina is right around the corner from JB’s, underground dark

ALTERNATE SEXUAL
METRO –-www.themetroclub.com 090-4194-9722 @ lover:z in Shin Sakae. Nagoya’s longstanding gay party comes in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Fun night out, and you don’t have to be gay. Across from CBC building.

|RAN| 21

DJ Babur

UK Sexy House

maddLOVE
Brooklyn, NY All Genre

Dan Sonoir
Virginia, USA Electronic

DJ GhostWilly
Kenya Hip Hop

Taro Alexander
DJ - Producer Honolulu, Hawaii Breakbeat

Nick Edges

UK Deep Funk House

crushmonkey

Brisbane, Australia Drum-n-Bass

DJ Dij

Tennessee, USA Dance Music

DJ Andy S
22 |RAN|

New Zealand Soulful House

Ambush Soldier
Aichi, Japan Reggae

DJ Travis Lucas

Gold Coast, Australia Tech House

SuperMario

Uganda African Vibes-Hip Hop

|RAN| 23

T

he Metro Club: where the Nagoya salaryman can trade in his slacks for stiletto s. Where the lines betwee n gender and nationa lity blur and lose their meanin g to the beat of the thundering speakers. Where the codified robotics of daily life are forgotten in the tangle of sweaty bodies pulsing under the strobe light. The Metro Club is where Nagoya lets its guard down and gives Shinjuku nichome a run for its money. For the last 18 years the Metro Club has been rolling out the best gay/lesbian/mixed party in Nagoya and yet when it comes to explaining just what it is, words become slippery and evasive. Nominally it is a “club” but properly speaking the event has changed venues several times over the years. It is more akin to a party, but that word too falls short of the mark. At the risk of sounding cliché, Club Metro is an experience that dissolves the barrier between subject and object, entertainer and entertained. It pulls the rug out from under the controlled and planned programming that exists in so many Japanese clubs and turns the event into an interactive, dynamic experience that is unique every time. On

| Story '& photos by Adam Pasion |

any given night you may see singing, dancing, drag queens and strip teases and the later you stay the more interesting it gets. If that sounds a bit intense it is because it can be, and yet at the same time The Metro Club is the most relaxed and open club environment you are likely to find anywhere. While the dancers act out their primordial love rituals others sit and enjoy a few drinks and a good chinwag, without seeming like wallflowers. The sofas are strewn about with those who haven' t had enough to drink and those that have had far too much. There is a very come-as-you-are (or come as you wish you were) and do-as-you-please environment that asks only that you enjoy and respect all the party has to offer. Whether you are gay, straight, lesbian, bi-curious, transgender, transvestite, or a transformer, there is a place for you at Metro. We asked the maître d-cum-MC-cum-Madame Matty d'Metro to answer a few questions about the event, the gay community in Nagoya (and a little about circumcision). Several beers later this is what came out:

24 |RAN|

THE

ME TRO

CLUB

RAN: How do the clubs that you throw the party at react to the event? Matty: People here are a lot less hung-up about their sexuality like people are in the west. All the staff are straight and of course they know what kind of party it is but I have never had any problems or attitude. RAN: Why the need to specifically label and market the party as an “international event?” Why not just participate with the established Japanese gay clubs? As a foreigner how have you felt going to Japanese gay clubs? Matty: Basically all that exists in Nagoya and even most major cities in Japan, are gay “snacks.” You go in and you sit at the counter, you get charged two thousand yen for a beer and three peanuts and then you have to talk to the ''Master'' who is like “so are you a top or a bottom?” It's like, I don't even know your name, you don't know mine. I didn't come here to talk about what I like to do with somebody that I am involved with. So that is pretty much how the whole Metro Club got started. The three guys who started it were like, “there is no where to go and just dance, and be in a gay, open environment where you can just have a drink, meet people and talk, dance and move around freely. In the “snacks” you don't move. You sit down and if there is somebody down the bar who likes you, they write it on a little slip of paper and pass it. It’s like, “grow up people. You are a 30 year old living at home with mommy and daddy and you’re still in the closet, passing notes to people in a bar.” RAN: So when Japanese people come to your event do they enjoy it? What sort of feedback have you received from them? Matty:The Japanese people who come are always saying it’s a great party, a lot more friendly and relaxed than they thought, and they come back. RAN: Are there many Japanese people in the gay/lesbian community who come-out to their friends and family? Matty: I think it depends on the individual, their family and their line of work. I know some guys who have come out to their families and been totally accepted. I think they are definitely the exception though. There are a lot of really great people here, and there are also a lot of people who growup here and their world is very narrow and there is a lot of expectation to conform, to marry, especially if you are the oldest son. RAN: Do you think that in Japan it’s common for a lot of gay men to get married? Matty: I think a lot do. The first gay person I met in Japan was a married man. I actually became very close with the whole family, and every time I had a little vacation I would stay at their house. Nice wife, nice kids, nice mother-in-law, big country house with rice fields. And nobody knew anything. RAN: Club Metro is a really eclectic crowd, not only in terms of orientation but nationality, age and gender. How do you think that affects the atmosphere? Matty: I think that is what makes the atmosphere so wonderful, is the diversity at the party, and the openness. It’s basically a gay/lesbian event because there's really nothing like that in Nagoya on a regular basis and I think the community needs somewhere they can come and feel welcome and meet

other people who are gay or lesbian or bi or whatever. But it's basically open to anyone as long as they understand they're on gay turf. It’s funny, the very first time I went to Metro 15 years ago, one of the guys who started the party was standing at the bottom of the stairs to the old Club Mago and he said “are you gay? Because this is a gay and lesbian party only.” But that is what I never ever want to do. We all have to get along and get together and accept each other no matter who and what we are. I love that there are women and men and they’re old and young and of all imaginable persuasions. They're transvestites and transgender, they're gay and lesbian, and whatever. Some of my closest friends that I have in Japan I met at Metro and I know lots of people who met their long term/lifetime partners at Metro. It's a small thing in the big wide world but personally I think that is great, that Metro has served the community so well on that very important level. RAN: What would you like to see change in the Japanese LGBT community? Matty: I wish more people in the Japanese LGBT community would come and check out the party, because I think some of them think, “oh, it's all gaijin” and yeah it is a lot of foreigners, but a lot of Japanese come and the ones that do come are always very pleasantly surprised at how warm and friendly the party is. I think a lot of Japanese who don't come have the wrong impression of the party. I wish they would come once to see for themselves what's really going. RAN: Anything else you want to put on the record? Matty: 18 years is a very long time, it’s a generation and The Metro Club is the longest running monthly event happening in Nagoya, perhaps in Japan, of any kind. Club Metro has been held on the second Saturday of every month for 18 years. It has switched venues several times throughout the years but now meets regularly at Club Loverz in Shinsakae, directly across from CBC TV's giant Ultraman statue. The party begins at 10 and always goes until 5 or 6am. Entry costs 2500yen at the door and includes two drink tickets. Whether you are gay or straight or somewhere in between, Club Metro's doors are always open and the party is always in full swing. www. thenagoyametroclub.com or on facebook at The Nagoya Metro Club

|RAN| 25

Fashion
流 行

S

| By Achim Runnebaum |

oots Bason e

in nagoya
RAN

The Must have item this season for fashionable nagoyans is a fur tail dangling from women's bags or belt loops.

Winter is upon us once again, and with that comes one of the nicest seasons in Japan. The fall season, otherwise known as Boots season. But aside from that, there are many other interesting trends to occupy your visual sense this season: From short, colourful boots, to the already seemingly ubiquitous fur, this season has something for everyone. Even though most people we talked to seemed to think that Nagoya Fashion is conservative and behind the times, this season is shaping up to be a feast for the eyes.

rry tails and Why are fu so popular accessories this season?
Well, the y're cute and feel good.

RAN

RAN
Why do you wear a hat?

u choose How did yo day? to your outfit

RAN
What style of shoes is "in" right now? Short colorful boots, especially red.

I just looked in my closet and put on the first thing that I found and feel comfortable in.
26 |RAN|

I didn't have time to properly style my hair today, (laughs) And I think hats are cool.

| By Alex Fraioli |

Stand up, please:
"I'm preparing for a twenty-minute set next month. I'm a little nervous," I tell my friend. "Oh! Just you?" "Yup." "For twenty minutes?" She is incredulous. "Well, yeah." "But… When does your partner come out?" This is a common exchange whenever I bring up the topic of Western stand-up comedy to my Japanese friends. It's not their fault. On the surface, Japanese comedy seems stuck in the Vaudeville era. The majority of active performers are 'manzai', comedy duos consisting of a 'boke' (the wise guy) and 'tsukkomi' (the straight man). Given the emphasis on social roles and modes in Japanese society, it fits that even the comedy scene would have performers conform to preexisting, easily-accessible archetypes. The relationship between boke and tsukkomi is basic and predictable, serving only as a vehicle toward the inevitable outcome: one dude smacking the other dude on the back of the head in roaring consternation. Scathing social critique -- a staple of Western comedy -- has little place on the Japanese side. Not to say it isn't funny. The problem is not that something is "missing" from mainstream Japanese comedy, but that, unlike the West, there just isn't much of an audience for anything else. In speaking with some average Nagoyans, I learned a few surprising things about these bow-tie-wearing, television chucklesmiths: They're all that most people want. I consulted a 15-year old high school boy, a 35-year old female train conductor, and a kindly widow. The prevailing sentiment is that at the end of the day, investing thought and emotion is the very last thing most Japanese people want to do. Sitting down to watch ridiculous slapstick is a pretty good stress reliever, and I really can't argue with that. The more I thought about it, the more parallels I began to draw to most American sitcoms. The big difference is that Western stand-up is almost stylistically inextricable from TV comedy. Many of the same concepts, formats, and even people are employed on both fronts. We even put hour-long stand-up specials on TV, something that would be too monotonous for Japanese audiences. The simple truth is that comedy, to most Japanese people, is a very black and white thing; if you're not making me laugh nonstop, you must not be a comedian. Comedy is a bit more flexible in the West, which experienced a gritty alternative comedy boom in the late 80's and early 90's. While Western comics were trading seltzer bottles for cigarettes, their Japanese

The state of comedy in Japan

counterparts kept right on pratfalling. The sort of dark or obtuse humor that we so love (you may have heard your Japanese friends use the term "American joke") comes in part from an entertainment renaissance that Japanese performers never really needed. As with most forms of entertainment, it comes down to business versus art. The manzai seen on TV are talented and well-rehearsed, but they're there primarily to earn a paycheck. Authentic, expressive comedy is confined to Tokyo's Asakusa district, which stages original Rakugo performances, what we urbanites would think of as one-man shows. They may not necessarily be humorous, but they deliver a personal, more opinionated performance than a TV manzai. And they DO have a following. Rakugo is as close to stand-up comedy as it gets in Japan. A single performer kneels onstage, imparting tales and witticisms from the perspectives of multiple characters. Many Western stand-ups specializing in long form comedy take a startlingly similar approach, eschewing laugh-a-minute gags for raw, altruistic stories about life. For a Japanese fan's perspective I spoke with Hiro Osada, manager and bartender at The Coopers, an Irish pub in front of Nagoya station. He's an outspoken guy who loves to laugh, and tries to take a humorous approach to life and work. Ran: What's your take on Western comedy? Hiro: Well, it's difficult for us Japanese to identify the punchline in an English stand-up routine or talk show. With movies, some of it is easy, some of it is hard. The physical humor of Mr. Bean, or The Mask, for example, is very accessible. Slapstick is pretty easy to get, but I'm not a kid, you know, sometimes I want something deeper. R: Do you like any Western comedy films? H: Oh, sure. I loved Tropic Thunder. Most of the humor was in the characters, especially Jack Black's character. I love Jack Black. I also enjoyed Superbad. I think that kind of coming-ofage story is universal in its appeal. The way that emotions shift in a comedy is different than in a straight drama. First you're smiling, then laughing, then crying. I wouldn't be crying if that scene wasn't preceded by jokes. That kind of dynamic is more powerful than a straight tragedy. R: What about the language barrier? Are you satisfied with Japanese subtitles? H: Not really. I like that some swear words have power in English films. Words like 'asshole' or 'motherfucker' are usually left alone in Japanese subtitles, but I get a kick out of them when they're used for comedy. They're always just translated as 'kusoyarou!' which is very vague. English curses have a specific potency. R: Can you give us an example? H: Well, I saw a comedy recently, I can't remember the name, but one character said, "I've been waiting here for thirty fuckin' minutes!" and the Japanese subtitle just said "I was waiting for you." I think that 'fucking' is crucial to create an atmosphere of comedy, you know, it establishes that character as an asshole. Assholes are funny. R: Assholes are funny? H: Assholes are hilarious. Alex Fraioli is a local humorist and comedy nerd. You can follow him on Twitter at @pitohui or on his website,

Pitohui.org

創造

Aya

Create

&
H

ria Ma

i, we're Aya Sakai and Maria Amakusa. We met in high school and have both loved drawing ever since we were little. While our styles differ drastically, we've been drawing together ever since we met. Having different perspectives and styles has helped inspire us to keep our art fresh. Aya: My art is often about imaginative worlds and unique characters. I never want to forget how children think and feel. I can't help but smile complacently when I'm drawing imaginative things, because it's fun to imagine them existing in this world. As we grow older and become so-called adults, we tend to think about things realistically, but I want to keep imagining dreamful worlds and fun, weird things. I like the warm feeling pencil drawings can express. I also love colorful things, and often make paper cutouts. I won a prize in the Nika Contest with my paper cutout piece. I really want more people to know my art and world, and I hope my work can make them smile. Maria: I tend to use white, black, and red in my art, and I love the male body. Knowing the world of bondage and S&M escalated my desire to use these elements. These days I want to share the S&M world, which moves me. People tend to have stereotypical sexual ideas about it, but I want people to notice its beauty. I keep drawing, hoping that others will notice it as well.

Living

FUTURE NAGOYA? Alan Omerovic Re-designs The Design City

生 活

| By TDHouchen | Alan Omerovic is a native Canadian from Vancouver bent on re-designing Nagoya from the ground up, literally.
From the tender age of 4, Omerovic has been drawing buildings, futuristic cityscapes, and possibly laying the groundwork for developing future urban landscapes more suited to today’s need for sustainable environments, better use of space, and more livable surroundings. From 4 years old. Omerovic, self-described “architectural artist”, is a mostly self-taught designer who creates elaborate models of gorgeously intricate skyscrapers with roof gardens, colorful glass exteriors and foliage adorning the outer walls of his buildings, suspended high in the sky like flying trees. His edifices look like giant, towering, gleaming living buildings. Hey Alan, how much is the rent? Omerovic believes Nagoya should be a more “vibrant and relaxed city”, with “more green space, wider streets”, and better usage of Nagoya’s vast roof space. I second that emotion. Check out his designs and get an idea of what Nagoya might look like in the near future, if Omerovic has any say in it. This could be your new digs.

photos: ALAN OMEROVIC

|RAN| 29

Read
文 学

I

| By Adam Pasion |
n stark contrast to its classical oriental roots, modern Japan is celebrated for embodying the surreal and bizarre. With their maid cafes, decorated freight trucks and black-faced yamanba girls its no wonder that neighborhoods like Tokyo’s Harajuku and Akihabara are drawing more tourists than the traditional temples in Nara. For long-time residents of Japan the novelties of “engrish” t-shirts, big furry mascots and lolitas may have lost most of their charm and what once would turn heads now has seamlessly blended into everyday banality. Even so there are still countless moments that leave even the most jaded expat scratching their head. For example, ever wonder just what goes on in a Terekura (telephone club)? How about some of those foods you were too scared to try, like live octopus? For lifers and greenhorns alike, “Moresukine” is a book that will no doubt answer many questions about this surreal clump of islands we inhabit and perhaps even restore a bit of that mystified wonder that slipped away so long ago. In “Moresukine” whose title comes from the Japanese pronunciation of “moleskin,” author Dirk Schwieger explores all those places few foreigners dare to tread, not because he wants to but because he has to. For 6 months Schwieger had an open challenge on his blog in which readers could submit any suggestions to him and he had to do it and document it in comic form. For every experience from capsule hotels to ancient swordsmiths, Schwieger is ever ready with pen in hand to record the event in his trusty moleskin. The concept itself is fun and imaginative but its also superbly executed with confident lines, creative pacing and an eye for detail that will throw the reader right into urban Tokyo. Schwieger was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work for RAN Magazine. RAN: Moresukine is one of the first interactive projects I have seen that really utilizes the internet as a creative tool. How did you come up with such an interesting idea for a comics-blog? Schwieger: It really didn’t feel all that “pioneery” back in 2006, but basing the book on assignments allowed me to combine my resentment towards the navel-gazing aspects of some personal blogs with a structural approximation to certain facets of Japanese culture. Like, creating a work in a joint effort rather than by one blown-up European artist’s ego, rooting it in all that virtual communication hubbub or turning myself into a flesh-and-blood avatar that could be navigated through different levels of everyday life in Tokyo. RAN: In the West, Tokyo has a reputation for being a strange and surreal place. After living in Japan for some time, do you still feel it is a strange place or is that stereotype exaggerated? Schwieger: One of the main points of MORESUKINE was that around the globe, there are countless Tokyos in the minds of people – erected out of endless anecdotes, myths and projections of this dream city far, far away. I guess for me, there are at least two coexisting Tokyos: the excessive, mindblowing one, where you can go and see people doing their business on stage or whatever, and then there’s the place where you do your everyday stuff, go to the supermarket, do your laudry, meet friends. MORESUKINE is very much about the interface between these two worlds. RAN: Being forced to explore some of the stranger niches of Japanese culture, how did that affect your experience living here? Schwieger: It was such an enriching experience! Having this uncannily well-informed readership sending me to places I

30 |RAN|

would never have seen let alone dared to enter without their backup. On the other hand, I hope I was also able to dispel some of the more exotic projections and could point out that, you know, in the end we’re all carbon-based. RAN: What has been the general response to your work from Japanese people? Schwieger: As challenging as it is to reach the general Japanese public with an English-language work, those who were able to follow my narrative seem to have had a lot of fun. One Japanese reader left a comment on my Studio Ghibli Museum entry, saying that he has lived around the corner of the museum for years and now finally decided to go there himself. RAN: How do you feel about the Japanese comics scene compared to that of Germany? Schwieger: I would say in Japan, you really have an industry – huge, fast, professional, commercial – whereas in Germany, it’s more or less a subcultural scene. A rather small ensemble of market players and only few German publications a year. There was no way I could set foot into the Japanese manga industry without speaking Japanese, so I tried to become more professional by imitating the overtaxing and sometimes inhumane elements of this industry with my own weekly MORESUKINE schedule: seven days for receiving an assignment, doing research on the topic, making phone calls, appointments, organizing an interpreter, going there, experiencing something, or not, reflecting upon it, laying-out the pages, writing, pencilling and inking four to eight pages, in addition to your day job – it was crazy. But it was me trying to create my own industry-like pressure and see what happens. RAN: What sorts of things did you get inspiration from in Tokyo? Schwieger: My experience was, that you didn’t have to wait for inspiration, it was waiting for you right in front of your doorstep. You go outside and some elderly gentleman that just bought himself some takeaway suddenly approaches you and firmly insists that you take his food as a gift, leaving you with his plastic bag, a brimful of question marks and the task to somehow fit this incident into your world view – that’s inspiration! RAN: What advice would you give to foreigners living in Japan? Schwieger: At the risk of replacing one stereotype with another,when I talked to people about moving to Japan some ex-expat warned me about how unapproachable Japanese people are and that I should go to a gym in hope of meeting some Americans or Australians if my loneliness became too unbearable – and I’ve had very,very different experiences during my time in Tokyo. So the only underlying advice that you will find in MORESUKINE is a plea for openness and impartiality. I am convinced that if you meet people and places and situations with a certain amount of openness of mind, you will be richly rewarded.

If you are not hooked yet go check-out the book, bound to look just like a Moleskin notebook, or for the more digitally inclined, (and cheap-ass gaijin) go check-out the original blog, still available for free at:

http://tokyoblog.livejournal.com/

Dirk Schwieger NBM Comics Lit, 2008 ISBN 10:1-56163-537-5
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Taste
味 わ う

ANA ARI
| By Adam Pasion |
to Chinese shumai. That is about where the similarities end though, because mantu dumplings are placed on a bed of fresh garlic and lemon yoghurt, then garnished with a chilled tomato and onion sauce. The dish is not only aesthetically pleasing but it tastes just as exotic as it sounds, with soft chunks of steamed lamb bringing the disparate flavors all together in a strangely exquisite balance. After sampling the Afhani portion of the menu there is still the Irani food beckoning to be eaten. The Irani bill of fare has more of the standard things you might expect to find at a place catering to the Pan-Middle-Eastern palate. Koubide is a type of mutton kebab gingerly spiced and grilled to perfection. Susa is a bit reminiscent of tandoori chicken but a bit heavier on lemon and herbs, and to give the dish a hearty backbone, the zeresk plaou, a type of spicy rice that will fill any empty pockets left in your stomach. As a sort of non-alcoholic digestif, daring diners may enjoy dugh, pronounced a but like 'dog' no less. Dugh is an unsweetened yoghurt drink seasoned with salt and mint. Although the salt probably does a bit to make you more thirsty than when you started, the mint is actually quite refreshing.

T

o call Ariana an Afghani restaurant is bit misleading, as in fact the restaurant itself makes no claims to be Afghani at all. In fact if you are like much of the lunch crowd, it would hardly stand out from the hundreds of other Indian curry houses (most of which, in this fare city of ours are in fact Nepalese). As a matter of fact to even get a glance at the Afghani cuisine you have to ask for a separate menu which would be better described as Pan-Middle-Eastern/CentralAsian fare...what a mouth full, now you see why I just called it Afghani. In many ways the menu reflects the diversity of Afghanistan itself with influences from Arab, Persian and Asian traditions. The key to adventurous eating is to order as many things as possible to insure a well-rounded understanding of the menu, which in the case of Ariana is taken care of by way of the course menu. A perfect way to begin the meal is with Bolani, a deceivingly simple leek and potato flat-bread covered in a sweet chili sauce. Unlike other flat-breads such as naan or pita, bolani is more pancake like, the tame middle-eastern cousin of okonomiyaki. The highlight of the menu, not to be skipped is mantu, a type of dumpling that looks similar

Just a couple blocks northwest from the tracks of JR Chikusa Station, Ariana is so much more than a curry joint. Make a point to ask for the Afghani and Irani menu and glut on some of the best Middle-Eastern food the city has to offer.

http://ariana.dweb.jp
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girl and alien illustrations: YUKO SANBORN

Can you find the 8 differences between these two pictures ?