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japan

so… i went to japan for what was i guess four days or so… the band was there for two festival shows and press before heading to australia… barbs sister patti came up to help with akira and it was fast and i really wanted to go so all in it worked out well… debbie and i went two days early to do media… on the way from narita airport, after the thirteen hour flight and little sleep at home the night before (i left at 5:30 a.m.) i questioned my sanity in so far as making the trip at all but by the time i left i was just totally knocked out by the people and place… the band, without me, was playing the SUMMER SONIC festival in osaka and tokyo… radiohead and the strokes were the headliners and there were just a shitload of bands including DEVO who i didnt even know had been playing lately… there was a significant buzz about blondie being back after 25 years, i didnt watch the oska show but everyone came off dissatisfied with it, festivals are at best quirky things, there is often a lot of technical hassle and the vibe surrounding them is often more of the reason to do them than the actual show…. but i watched the tokyo show with one of the guys from sugarcult on a backstge monitor and was really impressed… i could tell it was a more successful show but mainly i was impressed by debbie and i realised how much i take for granted how fantastic she is… it was a very moving moment seeing her from a more objective place and being carried away by her performance, she really is a great master of the form and i honestly believe she’s as great as anybody out there is or ever was elvis, janis, bowie, jagger whatever… anyway i tried to tell her something like that and i think she got the message she seemed pleased… by then i had to catch my plane back and thats where i am now: back here but again i was just KNOCKEDDD OUTTT by the little glimpse i got of japan… some of you know that ive always been a fan of japanese culture, my parents had japanese prints and stuff around when i was growing up and my mother who was a painter went through a period of studying and obsessing over japanese art i got a day to walk around DEN DEN TOWN in osaka which is not really a tourist area; long arcade streets filled with shops, stalls everything very bright and colorful, music all over the place contrast with older streets that are dense with atmosphere if not people (the ridley scott film BLACK RAIN was the first big hollywood production ever filmed in osaka) (i was with one of the guys, Jordan, from management) we went into an amazing gaming hall… pachinko which was the pastime when we were last there, is still around but in this place made up only a small part of the games… the majority were played with coin tokens that one got from the hall and were the sort that have you drop coins down a chute in order to have them pile up and fall over a moving edge… these are common in vegas but the japanese ones are more complicated involving video screens and all kind of tricky interactivity…in the center of one of the rooms a big horse race game with interactive screens all around that one bets with… sitting around at all of these games are the ‘cool’ kids and i had a revelation about why there isnt a drug epedemic in japan… earlier we’d been to some of the amazing model and hobby shops that i’d been longing to see for years… (recently there was a series of commercials on tv here for models; GUNDAM style robots, some of you may have seen them, oddly the theme of these commercials was “what is your level of commitment?…” meaning how many hours would you be willing to put into building a model robot) the model and craft scene in japan is just on a whole other level of commitment than its equivalent in the US, (later that day we all were in a big department store and i was amazed to see whole departments dedicated to craft supplies, wood working, metal parts etc etc… stuff that i can only find in ‘specialty stores’ in the states is right out in this regular department store (they even had a wall of parts to repair umbrellas) what i came to was that there is a different kind of involvement in life there than what we have in the states… americans have become a nation of observers and non-participants (one of the on-going themes at BURNING MAN is participation, posters and flyers say just that: “PARTICIPATE!”) i noticed a couple of kids at the game arcade holding drum sticks and thought that they were advertising their being in bands until i came upon a ‘game’ where you put in 200 yen and play a set of synth-drums along with a rock soundtrack for points… then there’s this: no one is overweight! and i mean no one! if one out of four americans is overweight then the percentage in japan from looking at people on the streets must be one in a thousand, its uncanny, almost every girl i’d see had a slim models figure… after a while it ceased to be amazing… also happily i didnt see the same kind of fashion uniformity that i do here and in parts of europe, no golf shirts on the men thank god and in general hardly any sports-logo clothing though many many t-shirts with crazy slogans and deformed english statements “summertime, the cool vacation since 1969” was an actual one that cracked us up finally the people are really so damn nice its just nuts when i think about day to day life in the US and europe… im used to being glared at and treated like a criminal by the people at the metal detectors and x-ray machines at airports so when the japanese versions of these western storm troopers turned out to be so cheerful and friendly/helpful, handing back packages commenting on toys i bought etc. i found myself thanking them out of all proportion… knowing with certainty that the person that you meet in the street or behind a counter is going to be nice to you makes life different and easier, its weird… what else… tokyo is very green, plants everywhere, we passed by a hurricane fence by a bleak junkyard at the outskirts of the city and even there in the middle of nowhere were little potted plants hanging on the fence that somebody took care of… so i just loved it and i really hope we can get back soon… the journalists and tv people all would ask if we had a message for our japanese fans and my ‘message’ was always that the japanese kids should not be so fast to look to america and the west for models and direction, that the japanese culture is important to the world right now and everyone over here could learn a lot from japan… by now the band is in melbourne, debbie called yesterday (just as akira was having her first floating bath which had her totally hypnotized, she’s three weeks old today) first show is in a day or so… next time i’ll be there, love to all in oz and elsewhere chris