The Land of Confusion (Japan)

Japan ~ Osaka – 2015

What do you think of when you hear Japan? Probably a lot of things flash by in an instant…from the deep rooted cultural elements, to the checkered history, the strange and bizarre…all the way to Pokémon and Dragonball Z (as well as so much more) – it’s safe to say that Japan has always painted a colorful tapestry for themselves, one unlike any other place on earth.

Like most western folks I confess I have a rather bare knowledge regarding the so-called land of the rising sun…but that’s alright – as it’s always more exciting and rewarding to go into a place totally unprepared! Every sense is more receptive – your eyes wide like a newborn baby…not wanting to blink so as not to miss anything as you stare up and around at all the newness in front of you. Like being unplugged from The Matrix – all of the preconceptions and travel guides can go out of the window, as you are witnessing it all first hand…you are truly living it in real time. And if you are lucky, nothing will be like it seemed from your armchair back home.

Exhilarating right? RIGHT! So how would all of these aesthetic commodities manage to impossibly mesh together then ? I didn’t have the foggiest idea – but of course I was still beyond curious! I mean…what would I find behind Japan’s veil of mystery?

Curtain GIF

Well my friends I will say this…Japan is weird and wonderful – no actually, wait – let me rephrase that…Japan is weirdly wonderful. You see many things in Japan are weird; very very weird – but the weirdness often makes them wonderful…and the things that are wonderful, wellllll they still often cling to a certain sense of weirdness. Sorry…I know I’m sounding like some sort of deranged Willy Wonka right now…but this is the best way I can think to sum it up! 

You see there’s battles on every single street corner! And by “battles” I don’t mean Pokémon battles (to my great disappointment), but battles between juxtaposing cultural elements…it’s bizarre, it’s crazy…but they manage to meld together in the strangest of ways…it shouldn’t work…they shouldn’t be able to coexistbut somehow they do in a way only Japan can manage. 

Think the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang – two opposing forces that form together in perfect unison…well yeah it’s like that except rather than good/evil, or light/dark it’s Buddhist temples and pornographic manga characters…to give just one of many examples…

Unbelievable GIF

There’s also a perfect fusion between the old and the new which I found rather fascinating. On the one hand you are ordering your food through a machine in a restaurant rather than dealing with humans…very Bladerunner-ish…but then on the other side of things you are paying in coins to get a paper ticket stub to ride a rather dated subway!  I like this idea though…not everything has to be updated, smooth, and futuristic – then again I’m biased as I still dream of living in a castle with a moat in the next ten years, so perhaps you shouldn’t pay attention to silly old me!

Mind one thing I didn’t quite enjoy as much was the confusing nature of the transport system…it actually seemed intentionally difficult. The lines criss-cross in the most nonsensical ways imaginable – I would assume because they were just built one after another, and so the map took shape without forward-planning…either that or the architect dropped a bowl of noodles and thought “mehhhh, good enough!”

Anyway, what that means for the user is that they are sure to pull their hair out attempting to understand that which cannot be understood! I’m not even talking about the fact that it is all strictly in Japanese; which sure is frustrating but as I was in Japan I felt was fair enough! I’m really just raving at the layout of the tracks, and routes…my advice is this; attempt to be constantly partially intoxicated on Japan’s surprisingly good, and cheap selection of beers – that way you won’t mind as much, and will just go with the flow!

“Oh, we went the wrong way by 20 minutes? Never mind…these things happen! Let’s go!” as opposed to: “FUCCCCK! WHY DOES THAT LINE GO THAT WAY?! WHY DOES IT HAVE THE EXACT SAME STATION NAME MINUS ONE NUMBER! WHY AM I NOT DRINKING BEER RIGHT NOW?!” – it’s really your decision, but I feel comfortable with my choice.

Smug GIF

I came to the end of my trip seriously wanting more…which has to be a positive? Sure there had been some lows – losing on Tekken to a young Japanese kid which basically destroyed my entire belief that I was a master of that game…continually relying on body language rather than spoken words, so much so that I now feel like a professional body-popper…and finding out there are so few vegetables in the Japanese diet that I may have scurvy, BUT – despite all of this it has piqued my interest massively as both a country, and as a culture – due to that I want to return very soon…next time Tokyo I reckon, so I can experience a change of pace – mind, I’ll still be going in as a rather clueless and ignorant tourist; and you know what?

That suits me just fine. 

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A Hollow Halloween

Well guys I was waiting till the shame subsided…but it doesn’t look like it will any time soon…so I am going to go ahead and tell you what happened to me during Halloween of this year!

I didn’t go all out – not in the slightest in fact, however last year I did, I picked up a fake muscular chest-piece thingy, and a red martial arts costume…styled my hair in a crazy way, and really put my all into the persona! I was Paul Phoenix from the Tekken series. But no one, not even a singular human, realized this. Instead they thought I was some guy from Dragonball Z, and in the end I just agreed with them – despite having never really watched that cartoon…

Halloween

Here I am, with my deer friend, Ann

(Halloween 2013)

I had a few ideas this year…but before I knew it, the night was upon us! And I had nothing, repeat – NOTHING! So what did I do? Well took to Google of course! He is my companion through all walks of life…guiding me, and filling in my major gaps in knowledge that I possess in just about every subject. So I typed in something like…easy men’s Halloween costumes…I wasn’t impressed, they looked shit for one, but also they took a lot of work – I was looking for something that I could just out together in the house, out of like…foil…and…toilet paper…something that was at hand, and didn’t take effort basically. So I tried…very, very easy men’s Halloween costume…I stared at it, and added…last minute.

The search brought up quite a few positive results. Mainly jokey ones, that played on puns – which is basically saying; “yeah, I made no effort – but that’s what I was going for…so leave me alone…”

Mistake Shit GIF

I had gave some thought to going as Two-Face from Batman…you know, like draw all over one side of my cheek – and perhaps pat flour onto one half of a suit…but then that would surely ruin a suit, right? Nerrrr, pass on that! That’s when an image of Jim Halpert, from The Office popped up on my screen…it was from one of the Halloween episodes, in this one he had written BOOK across his face – so he could say that he had came as Facebook! I thought – YES! That is shit, but funny enough to get me off the hook! I would wear clothes similar to his, so that it worked on two levels…perhaps at the party some people would want to have a conversation about which version we prefer, and blah blah blah…it’s basically a conversation starter! What a great idea! Thanks Jim, you old dog, you!

So I was all dressed up, in a business-ish suit – a la Jim Halpert – and reached for a huge marker pen so I could etch out the giant letters across my face…it suddenly felt like it was a stupid idea, but not like haha stupid – more just plain moronic. I went for it anyway.  The first thick black line looked awful…but I thought it would get better…I carried on until I was staring at myself in the mirror…argh…KOOB…huh? So FaceKOOB?! I’d went, and done it the wrong way around…so had to scrub, and scrub, and scrub my sensitive skin until the PERMANENT (oops!) marker decided to come off…

It really, really hurt…it took a lot of convincing, and left me with red-raw cheeks…

Crying Space Man GIF

Perhaps I could turn this around in my favor? Perhaps I could go as…errr…like Pikachu, or Santa Claus…or somebody else that has red cheeks…hmm…

I decided I needed to commit – don’t get excited, I mean commit to the characternot…you know. Although to be honest rolling up in this state would be definite social suicide. Whatever, Who cares? I drew BOOK onto my burning face, and then bounced out of the door before I changed my mind.

At the bus stop I wondered why I had drawn all over my face, when I could have easily just brought the pen with me, and did it all last second. I could have just been a guy in a suit, just trying to go a place – no questions asked…but instead I was the weirdo attracting stares from the entire population of the town.I looked back at them, and nodded…tried an awkward smile, but their faces curled, and contorted as they tried to make sense of what was going on.  I lasted about fifteen minutes, which took a lot – but finally broke…I turned away, walked into a dark corner…and began licking my hand, and scrubbing relentlessly at my cheeks…then checking the reflection of my phone…then more saliva…more scrubbing…phone…then saliva…scrub…phone…saliva…cuffs of my jacket…phone

I seriously hate scrubbing, I don’t think I’ll ever scrub a day in my life again.

Scrub GIF

Unsurprisingly the stares still continued. I got on the bus, and made use of the window’s reflection to perfect my makeover back to my…err, natural look. I didn’t really care much that my cheeks looked like rashers of bacon, after all at social functions I always go red anyway…it’s just so embarrassing meeting people, and telling them about how saliva has been a key part of your night so far. Well, maybe I should just no say anything about that – but you know…I WILL. 

I took a deep breath, and walked through the door.

Fortunately my old friend Tequila was there too…so the night turned out better than expected…I just let people come up to me, and guess what I was – whatever they said was correct. Best thing was most thought I had made a real effort…I suppose in a manner of speaking I had been through a lot of trouble!

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