JAPAN!!!!! Part 1

by Matthew Edward Hawkins

WARNING: Many, MANY pics ahead.

And I?m back.

Actually, I?ve been back in the States for a while now, since this past (or I guess now, last) Sunday. And on Monday I had my first, full-fledged American meal, which may or may not be the reason why I became violently ill Tuesday morning. Either my body had a bad reaction to the re-introduction of shitty, American food (perhaps because I?m half Asian, but I had zero problems eating nothing but rice, curry, and raw fish, day and night for almost two weeks? plus I had no allergies the entire time, which was something I was super worries about before the trip, since they?ve been such a problem this year thus far, and according to MK, even my skin cleared up a bit from my trip), or it finally fell apart from being pushed too hard (I barely got any sleep almost the entire time, plus there was quite a bit of physical excursion at the show during the final day). Or maybe I caught some nasty bug my last day in Japan?

I was actually supposed to go back to work on Tuesday, but shortly after waking up that morning, I threw up everything from the day before. So I emailed my job and said I wouldn?t be able to come in, but I?d do work after a light nap. I then figured that after some rest, I?d write a bit about Japanese cell phone culture then enjoy the rest of the day from bed, watching DVDs. Didn?t happen. Fast forward just a few hours, and yet another vomit attack, this one being so bad that I couldn?t even make it to the bathroom. So there I was, on the floor or my bedroom, with my head in a garbage pail, and the rest of me on all fours, and totally naked. Also, with zero trace of food in my body, I was forcing out pure bile at that point. MK was with me, who has a serious aversion to vomiting, so I know it must have been no picnic for her either. But thank God she was there because he nursed me back to health; because I couldn?t even keep water down, I became seriously dehydrated and soon began to hallucinate, but she kept watch over me by placing damp socks (I own no washcloths, so my socks had to do) and got me Jello for sustenance.

I?m a little better now I guess, though I still feel pretty weak and crappy. I simply didn?t have the strength to cover some Pac Man world record attempt earlier this week for GameSetWatch (once again, I’m super sorry Simon), though I have managed to get some work done on the television pilot, which I?m pretty proud of. Otherwise, all the work that?s been waiting for me all this time, as well as all the emails that?s collected during my absence has largely remained untouched? so if I haven?t gotten back to and I should have, I?m super sorry. But I?m just feel so wasted at this point that all I can really do is pass out I?m afraid. Plus, every American meal now leaves me feeling totally shitty; I guess one doesn?t truly realize how bad our food is once it?s totally out of our system. The idea of building up a tolerance for it is depressing on various levels.

And don?t even bother mentioning MoCCA to me; I?m totally in a ?I don?t give a shit? state of mind, simply because I?m sick, plus, I just got back from Japan! All I can say is Unlucky Preview Mini #3? coming out at SPX 2007.

Anyway, back on topic? Japan. What a fucking country. I don?t even know where to begin, so I guess I?ll just start from the very beginning, along with some of the 2,000 pics that I took (the rest I?ll put on Flickr).

The trip started a little over two weeks ago. Met up with Joe and June, along with Keith and Anney at Newark Airport. The latter the two originally brought on board to create wacky costumes when the original plans called for Clogged Arteries (Joe’s “band”) to be realized as a GWAR infused with Franken Berries stage production, with me assuming the ident of a crazy, killer, mutant cereal box, until things changed. Instead they were on-hand to help handle the huge inflatables based on the characters Joe had created for the fest. We left American soil on a Tuesday morning and arrived in Japan in on a Wednesday morning. Nothing better than a 13 hour flight + a 13 time difference!

Days 1&2: Suzuki

It took less than five minutes from touch down to marvel at the wonderful Engrish and the rather ultra fancy, and somewhat complicated (at least to an American) toilets found at Narita Airport.

The five of use were greeted by ?G?, one of the three Japanese punk kids in charge of the Magma fest (I forget his real name… Tetsuya or Takeshi or something). We piled into his van…

… and soon were off. Here’s some random pictures taken while on the road; please excuse the touristy pics, but I was such shock and awe to be in a different land (it had been a dream of mine for years to be in Japan), plus I want to test out my new camera…

Besides, if I hadn’t been taking pictures of everything like a total brain-dead tourist, I wouldn’t have had my camera handy to snap the out of the blue arm wrestling. That I simply love the small vehicles they have in Japan.

At one point, the vehicle ran out of gas, forcing both Keith and myself to go outside and push it to a nearby gas station. Thankfully we were off the highway by then and in city limits. Keith captured some footage of it, and once he?s managed to get it on YouTube, I?ll pass the link along.

Once filled up, we finally made it to our hotel. The first of many actually… Our first stop on the trip was Kawasaki, which is a city in Kanagawa, which is between Tokyo and Yokohama.

One of the first things I immediately I noticed was the abundance soda machines. They’re EVERYWHERE, like literally every two feet. And thanks to wonders of Japanese package design, everything looked quite? enticing.

So much so that I decided to break my 8+ years anti-soda stance by enjoying a nice, cold can of Japanese liquid sugary goodness.

And it was nice! So, so nice. Unlike the time I accidentally ingested a cola in the states, it went down smooth and sweet. I would later discover that it was largely due to the fact that soda in Japan contains real sugar, whereas in America it?s all corn syrup and other shitty additives. Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, this doesn?t mean I?m back on the soda bandwagon. It?s only for when I?m out of the country. I swear!

Here?s what my room looked like. It was small, but quaint. Very Japanese, with slippers so you wouldn’t have to walk around with your dirty outside shoes.

Though the best part is this sign you see when sticking your head out the window.

Shortly after checking in, Taka, the lead organizer showed up, who gave a brief tour of the town. Along the way to dinner, we got to see all the various things that make up an average Japanese city, such as pachinko parlors?.

… And cuteness everywhere, whether it be flowing in flag form…

… Even at the police station!

Another thing that was immediately noticeable is that a lot of people use bikes to move around. Here?s a whole slew of them parked on the street?

The crazy thing is that none of them are locked down! I?d notice this a lot throughout the trip; lots of stuff that would totally be jacked in New York City are totally left alone. It?s amazing how everyone has a very deep respect for personal property. Either that or they have some fucking insane anti-theft laws. But aside from stuff, almost every person I encountered (at least those from Japan? more on that a bit later) simply had respect for people in general. Which I guess also explains why everyone was so warm and friendly. And makes the rudeness of New Yorkers all the more pointless and annoying.

May as well state this up front: I totally fell in love with Japan, so you’re hear me go, over and over again, about how awesome is, and how its so much better than America, New York primarily. It might be annoying, I know, so apologizes in advance. But maybe I’ll be able to state a compelling case.

Anyway, Taka led us to this traditional restaurant located near one of Kawasaki?s shopping centers. One thing that was true from all the books I read for people visiting Japan is how malls are great places for foreigners to get acquainted with the local cuisine.

The place we went to was hella nice. A real traditional joint: imagine the place where the big fight scene took place in Kill Bill 1, but even fancier.

Here?s something that everyone in our party has head for years that turned out to be false: Japan is not expensive! Then again, we all hail from NYC. But seriously, for our entire stay we all pigged out on a vast array of amazing Japanese delights and it cost us hardly anything! We first learned this when chipping in for the first meal; in America, a similarly sized meal would have cost each person $20, minimum. Yet each person chipped in maybe 4, 5 bucks? Though I guess it makes sense that Japanese food would be cheaper in Japan. Oh, and it goes without saying that it blows anything offered in America out of the water.

Taka decided to take us back to our hotel by walking us through some Yakuza alley. Once I saw it before me, it had finally hit me… I WAS IN FUCKING JAPAN!

Does look like a scene from a movie, doesn’t it? Anyway, there were various karaoke bars and sex places dotted along (or by the looks of it in the picture, a place that offers clients intercourse with real dolls?)…

… As well as a jazz cafe that advertised in flashing neon: “REAL BLACK MUSIC.” I really wish I had a pic, but my camera died at that point. BTW, after-all was said in done, I took over 2,500 pics while in Japan, so I guess its no surprise that I went through over 20 pairs of batteries.

The next morning, I went across the street to Lawsons, a major convenience chain in Japan. A former co-worker of mine once said that you could live off the food served in places like Lawsons or their 7-11s and you?d still be eating like a king, and man, was he not joking. Each serves tons of awesome food, and at awesome prices. Also, the Japanese proves that fast food doesn?t necessarily have to be unhealthy food. I can?t tell you how many of their little rice balls wrapped in seaweed with a little bit of seasoning inside I had. Anyhow, here?s a funny package of cheese that I spotted while getting breakfast.

Also, Japanese television is simply amazing. Here?s some snapshots I took of a show I caught, about some flattop competition.

Shortly afterwards, myself and rest of the gang packed our bags and headed towards another hotel, a few blocks down. Why the move? Good question? and one that was never really answered. We?ll get back to it in a bit. But anyhow, this other place was a bit nicer, and offered a bit more room. Here?s a couple shots of hotel room #2.

The view from my room. I’ve been a fan of Japanese architecture for a while now, and my stay made me appreciate it even more so.

… And that’s it for now! The rest of day two coming up real soon!

To Be Continued…

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