Shibuya is the New Roppongi

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The latest Shibuya trend: The neighborhood smells like an open sewer. I live relatively close so it’s a convenient place to meet friends, but every time I exit the subway, I can’t help feeling that it looks dirtier, has more foreigners, and smells worse than the last time I left it. Whether there’s really a correlation between the increasing odor and the massing of non-East Asians, I don’t know, but Shibuya — the most ultra-Japanese of all Tokyo neighborhoods — has been transformed into a mini-Roppongi.

Shibuya’s always been about shopping and sex, and it dropped on the youth culture radar in the late ’80s/early ’90s when rich kids went there to rove in chiimaa (teamer) gangs and pick up trashy girls from good families. A bit later, the ko-gyaru boomed, and their much-ballyhooed enjokousai prostitution made the neighborhood a symbol of illicit sex and vapid hyper-consumerism. Shibuya’s always had a nasty edge — the love hotels, head shops, Middle Easterners (both Jewish and Arab) selling jewelry and crank — but the ko-gyaru nation was oddly anti-foreigner and pro-Japanese. If Aoyama/Harajuku were internationalist in perspective, Shibuya was their dark nationalistic pop cultural cousin.

Roppongi has a much longer history as a nightlife destination, and it is the shadowy business ground for Tokyo’s underworld of drugs, sex, and politics. While foreigners have always been a colonial presence, the Japanese used to actually think Anglos were cool, and at least until the ’70s, Roppongi was the symbol of “goin’ Downtown” for young, swinging Japanese. Once Japanese tastes vastly exceeded Tokyo’s perennial loser ex-pats, they got the hell out, and in the ’90s, Roppongi became solely the home to a modern Gas Panic version of the WWII private-meets-local tale of romance. Now with Roppongi Hills, Mr. Mori and his cult of wealth are using the area to revive Bubble era values.

Even though Roppongi’s getting this new fancy face-lift, every foreigner I meet will automatically expresses his disdain for Roppongi in the first five minutes of conversation, and the old Colonialists seem to have made an exodus towards Shibuya. This goes hand in hand with the perceived “coolness” of Japanese culture itself. Roppongi and Hiroo were places for foreigners to “escape” Japan; Shibuya is a place to be enveloped in it. The soldiers and working holiday’ers now eschew the foreigner-friendly women for a chance to stare at the crazy girls in too much make-up.

At the same time, however, I can’t seem to go anywhere in the hipster quarters of Nakameguro or Daikanyama without running into a half-dozen other super-skinny, intentionally dirty-looking indie-boys who’ve evidently all moved to Tokyo to get a bit of “Gross National Cool.” If you went to a small gig or club event five years ago, you’d be guaranteed to be the only foreigner there, but now I can’t even be taken to a hidden kayoukyoku (歌謡曲) bar without being the second foreigner to enter the premises that night.

I do welcome this influx of like-minded foreigners, and I’ve met a ton of super interesting non-Japanese lately, but there’s a fundamental problem, which will be no secret to those who’ve lived in Japan: All foreigners with interest in Japan hate all the other foreigners with interest in Japan. The Colonialists all like their ex-pat buddies and pubs, but the Japanese-speaking foreigner contingent is in constant battle with themselves, vying to prove linguistic abilities, obscure knowledge, and depth of societal penetration. I call this the “gaijin complex,” and I’m only finally finding my way out of it now after a long period of affliction and convalescence. But it’s time we all get over it, because Japan is no longer a place where Western misanthropes can go to escape humanity, but a growing international hub where speaking Japanese fluently will no longer be such a rarity. Right now, Shibuya may be the odorous hot spot, but wherever we venture, there will soon be the stink of the West.

(I call Nezu 1-chome!)

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

109 Responses

  1. trevor Says:

    gaijin complex is fukin’ crazy shit yo. but so true. if i want to see gaijin all over, i can just stay in nyc.. go to times square or something. maybe tokyo is out? everyone i meet always wants to go to tokyo. so by default it would it would be impossible for it to be cool anymore. to the hills of kyoto!! morioka? gifu!? sapporo!? maybe kanazawa then..
    maybe cities are out in general?

  2. dzima Says:

    Tell me how are you getting over your gaijin complex. Last dinner I went to a dinner with Japanese people, there had to be the tall, blonde, 110% fluent in Japanese Anglo-Saxon lad who steered the whole group conversation. It didn’t bother me, he plays for his audience and I play for mine. Maybe a question you should ask is: when are the Japanese people going to stop falling for these types?

  3. dzima Says:

    Also, how are the Lost in Translation and Kill Bill tourists doing at moment?

  4. marxy Says:

    <i>Also, how are the Lost in Translation and Kill Bill tourists doing at moment?

    They keep whispering something in each other’s ears, but I can’t tell what they’re saying.

  5. porandojin Says:

    hehehehhe

    world is cruel and cold … now with cheap flights i guess also reykiavik is ruined with loud british tourists …

  6. dzima Says:

    I think I heard them whisper: “Marxy, it’s not Daikanayama, it’s Daikanyama. Don’t worry, you can still recover from the gaffe”.

  7. marxy Says:

    Gaijin Battle: Nit-picking Competition

    Dzima 1, Marxy 0

  8. Momus Says:

    Competition for Japanese females, plus the desire to represent and experience only the Other, means that all non-Colonial gaijin are, as you say, natural enemies. It’s sad but true: probably if I met you or Robert in the US I could be your friends, but in Japan there’s no chance. I actually resent every second I’m with non-Japanese in Japan, and hate to be in a place where other non-Japanese are present.

  9. Momus Says:

    That said, I’ve disliked Shibuya for some time, and it’s nothing to do with gaijin.

  10. Momus Says:

    Hisae says that Japanese are also annoyed to see other Japanese in London. For instance, Brick Lane and the Whitechapel Road area are just full of them, and they walk around in little groups pointedly ignoring each other. Here in Berlin, where there are fewer Japanese, they’ll tend to talk to each other, ask how long they’ve been here, etc.

  11. Momus Says:

    H adds: “Usually the Japanese who ignore other Japanese tend to hate their own culture and want to escape into other cultures.” Now, that’s certainly true of me — I have real issues with Britain — but it’s not true of you, Marxy, and this tends to be the main bone of contention in our skirmishes, which boil down to me saying “Why don’t you hate your own culture?” So I’m wondering why you’re describing yourself as “recovering from gaijin complex”, when you haven’t really shown signs of it in the sense that Hisae describes. You’ve never been an escapologist, exoticist, apologist. You’ve never been unpatriotic.

  12. Nathan Says:

    Wow, I’m not the only one who thinks this!
    I guess the other thing is losing your identity as THE gaijin. Some of the groups I went out with when I was in Japan, I was the only non-japanese, and being the gaijin was my gimmick i guess you could say, and as soon as another gaijin joined the group there was resentment, mostly based that that aspect is no longer unique. I always felt it was childish and stupid, but at the same time, I still felt that way.

    I think Hisae’s comments are right there Momus. You could probably peg me as an escapist. Although there are things about Adelaide / Australia that I like, I’ve long thought that this isn’t the place for me and aim to get the hell out.

  13. Nathan Says:

    Wow, I’m not the only one who thinks this!
    I guess the other thing is losing your identity as THE gaijin. Some of the groups I went out with when I was in Japan, I was the only non-japanese, and being the gaijin was my gimmick i guess you could say, and as soon as another gaijin joined the group there was resentment, mostly based that that aspect is no longer unique. I always felt it was childish and stupid, but at the same time, I still felt that way.

    I think Hisae’s comments are right there Momus. You could probably peg me as an escapist. Although there are things about Adelaide / Australia that I like, I’ve long thought that this isn’t the place for me and aim to get the hell out.

  14. r. Says:

    there is an even darker complex that i have…the total avoidance of all japanese who are ‘gaizuki’…any takers?

  15. r. Says:

    and while we are on the subject…i avoid japanese people who want to practice their english on me like the plague…takers?

  16. r. Says:

    and while we are STILL on the subject, i get a secret pleasure/thrill out of talking with non-japanese in japanese in mixed company. laying down the burden of my colonial ‘english’ at the river jordan is a humbling experience that i can’t get enough of…

  17. r. Says:

    just to make sure that what i just said isn’t mis-taken, when i say non-japanese, i don’t mean ‘white-folk’ per se. for example, i have a korean ‘circle’ here, and my chinese conversation partner and i uses japanese as a ‘lingua franca’ to teach each other. he teaches me chinese in japanese, i teach him english in japanese. i like that funky-fresh feeling.

  18. Roy Says:

    Shibuya’s gone downhill since they moved hachiko to face east. The place needs a big enema.

  19. r. Says:

    is Roy on a ‘fu-sui’ tip?

  20. jariten Says:

    and while we are on the subject…i avoid japanese people who want to practice their english on me like the plague…takers?

    yes, although I found that the chances of being accosted by an eigo princess or one of the “箸上手!” crowd went down about 40% when I abandoned Iwate for Nagoya.

  21. r. Says:

    if their japanese is hands-down better than my english, i don’t mind…in fact it can be fun. but again, there are times when it is a ‘no-contest’ again, like when i’m hanging out with my non-japanese asian friends who DON’T speak english so our common language is japanese. and then there is the sign-language crowd. don’t get me started on this kids…

  22. Momus Says:

    “the Japanese-speaking foreigner contingent is in constant battle with themselves, vying to prove linguistic abilities, obscure knowledge, and depth of societal penetration. I call this the “gaijin complex,””

  23. Remi Says:

    Maybe that feeling is the feeling of people who left their own country to integrate into another one. During my four years in London, I tried to avoid French people as much as possible, thinking “aaaaargh!” as soon as I was hearing them (tourists & residents) around me…

  24. r. Says:

    but nick, this doesn’t sound half-bad! this is everything that ISN’T getting explored by most people in their native environs!

  25. r. Says:

    …but if you are going to go thru the trouble of IDing this kind of thing, you should also talk about what happens when japanese go abroad, especially to america. they tend to ‘flatten out’…
    no constant battles with themselves

    no vying to prove linguistic abilities

    no obscure knowledge

    no depth of societal penetration

    two wrong? two rights?

  26. Momus Says:

    you should also talk about what happens when japanese go abroad

    Er, we did that upthread, r, re: London. Our conclusions were less sweeping than yours. No obscure knowledge? No depth of societal penetration? Really? Have you spoken to Aki Onda recently about his life in Brooklyn?

  27. r. Says:

    come on, nick! i’m just trying to be marxy-level blunt.

  28. r. Says:

    less sweeping to be sure! in fact, what you use to base your conclusions (jumped to) on isn’t a ‘sweep’ at all, but a singular point, the opinion of one girl…which is guess is as good as one guy, right?

  29. Chris_B Says:

    momus: welcome back, its been quiet without you.

    marxy: shibuya has always smelled like a bus station mens room.

    r: as for the ones who just want to practice english, I have no problem at all cutting them off in a variety of ways. As for speaking japanese to other foreigners, that happens a fair ammount at work when we have to deal with a manager who speaks little or no english.

    As far as avoiding other gaijin, that seems just kind of childish to me.

  30. r. Says:

    right! that’s one reason that i’m enjoying our ‘nakameguro single malt society’ so much! many happy returns!

  31. marxy Says:

    I actually resent every second I’m with non-Japanese in Japan, and hate to be in a place where other non-Japanese are present.

    This wears out when you live here – you can’t be angry and self-hating ALL the time, right?

    “Why don’t you hate your own culture?” So I’m wondering why you’re describing yourself as “recovering from gaijin complex”, when you haven’t really shown signs of it in the sense that Hisae describes. You’ve never been an escapologist, exoticist, apologist. You’ve never been unpatriotic.

    Oh, how old style your thinking, Momus. Here’s the deal with this Internet age: I can live in Japan where everyone is polite and smells decent, go home once and a while and eat American food and sleep on huge plush beds, buy everything from anywhere on Amazon, and dialogue with people all around the world. Escaping Americans doesn’t mean that I need to now hate American indie music or the education system in which I received my values.

    My only fear is that the things I like about Japan – the wacky consumer culture, the European cafe aesthetic, etc. – are kind of “in decline” as I like to say.

    there is an even darker complex that i have…the total avoidance of all japanese who are ‘gaizuki’…any takers?

    Here, here.

    .i avoid japanese people who want to practice their english on me like the plague…takers?

    I don’t run into this that much in Tokyo.

    Have you spoken to Aki Onda recently about his life in Brooklyn?

    All ex-pats are generally awful. Have any of you read The Sun Also Rises lately. They’re all dickheads (and anti-Semites).

    I knew a lot of Japanese in NYC who only hung out with Japanese and spoke Japanese, and I knew some so integrated into English-speaking society that they resented me speaking to them in Japanese. Wherever you go, the non-Colonialists are low in number. The question is just: why would a Japanese young person leave Japan if not to learn another culture? It’s not like they’re being assigned overseas…

  32. bo peep Says:

    Being around other gaijin in Japan just reminds other gaijin that they are just that. . gaijin. It’s an inescapable fact, and no matter how few gaijin are around you, whether you are the only one at a club or an izakaya or if you are in an area swarming with them, Japanese will always consider you gaijin. Just because you might feel more “Japanese” when you are the only gaijin in a place doesn’t actually make you Japanese in anybody’s eyes. Just in your mind’s eye. If you really want to be the only gaijin somewhere, leave Tokyo.

  33. antonin Says:

    OK, I think I wont move to TYO after all.

  34. UK Says:

    Foreigners in Japan? Strange.
    Japan or Tokyo has the lowest numbers of Anglo foreigners, in the world. Most of the gaijin (95%) are from Asian countries.
    I live in London – we have thousands of Japanese
    and millions from all over the world.
    Ho, by the way, most Anglo foreigners (99%) are “teachers”.

  35. Erik Says:

    Marxy~

    …”everytime I exit the subway, I can’t help feeling that it looks dirtier, has more foreigners, and smells worse than the last time I left it.”…

    Expecting a organic entity such as a Shibuya to stay 90’s ko-gyaru cool just as you like it is ridiculous. Cities are organic entities and change is inevitable, whether it be to your liking or not is beside the point. But this is not why I write.

    I can’t help but notice your comments smack of misplaced entitlement and hubristic old-timer expat elitism. Your sense of ownership may have grown from living in Tokyo for a number of years, but this fact and your encyclopedic knowledge of the city and culture doesn’t make you any more of a local than the latest batch of tourists fresh off the Naita Express. Your misplaced sense of entitlement towards a city and culture you most likely will never be considered a part of is naive and unfortunate. I also notice a certain amount of ironic derision towards fresh-faced gaijin who probably consider Tokyo as exciting and fascinating as you, but weren’t fortunate enough to be born early enough to move there first.

    I hope you don’t take this the wrong way; you have a right to your opinion but it seems you’ve lost perspective. bo peep puts it well: Japanese will always consider you gaijin. Just because you might feel more “Japanese” when you are the only gaijin in a place doesn’t actually make you Japanese in anybody’s eyes. Just in your mind’s eye.”

  36. r. Says:

    erik fails (tellingly) to mention that a huge number of japanese living in tokyo aren’t really ‘from’ tokyo either. they’re from ‘parts unknown’ and moved here for work or school…so, if almost NO-BODY is ‘legit’ in my book the person who ‘cares’ (as david does about…well, stinky shibuya) has squatter’s rights. it is hard to find japanese who ‘love’ tokyo the same way a New Yorker ‘loves’ that city, this despite the best efforts of the Richard Gere posterboy ‘I LOVE NEW TOKYO’ campaign.

    http://www.blogg.org/blog-9904-billet-130286.html

  37. dzima Says:

    It’s the second time Marxy is called naive in the last couple of days.

  38. r. Says:

    david says: all foreigners with interest in Japan hate all the other foreigners with interest in Japan.

    robert says: but what if my interest in Japan is in how OTHER foreigners (red, yellow, black, white) are interstED in Japan? What then?

  39. r. Says:

    btw, please explain the ‘nezu 1-chome’ line…

  40. marxy Says:

    It’s the second time Marxy is called naive in the last couple of days.

    Dzima 2, Marxy 0.

    btw, please explain the ‘nezu 1-chome’ line…

    The joke was that I was “calling” a neighborhood to go to where there wouldn’t be other foreigners…

    Now to the lectures from everyone!

    Expecting a organic entity such as a Shibuya to stay 90’s ko-gyaru cool just as you like it is ridiculous.

    I’ve never liked ko-gyaru or Shibuya, so I’m not bemoaning the “loss” of Shibuya, I’m just describing the fact that it’s gotten much grungier.

    Japanese will always consider you gaijin. Just because you might feel more “Japanese” when you are the only gaijin in a place doesn’t actually make you Japanese in anybody’s eyes. Just in your mind’s eye.

    I don’t know why I’m the lightning rod for this when I’m describing a psychological phenomenon that non-Colonial foreigners go through. I’m over it – I’ve long been comfortable with the fact that I’m not Japanese, nor considered Japanese, nor will ever be Japanese.

    However, there’s a very Simmel-esque theory of fashion going on with gaijin-ness, which is that the Colonial-gaijin are the main dominant “image” of foreigners in Japan that most Japanese people hold, and us non-Colonials have to find a way to differentiate ourselves in the eye’s of Japanese. So it’s very easy to fall into the trap of over-Japanizing yourself just to prove you’re not them.

    Your misplaced sense of entitlement towards a city and culture you most likely will never be considered a part of is naive and unfortunate.

    I know you are having fun scolding me, but I don’t really understand this idea of me being “naive.” If I was “naive,” I would be “lacking understanding” and you wouldn’t be reading my blog. I’m sure there are 100 other foreign bloggers in Japan writing about how wonderful everything is in this non-changing, depthless Japan and I welcome you to go search them out for whatever the enlightened opinion is supposed to be.

    The Shibuya streets must smell as sweet as a Beard Papa cream puff… if I only weren’t so naive!

  41. marxy Says:

    Thanks for the post, Joopy. For a long time, I thought that Rrose Selavy was just Marcel Duchamp’s fake Internet name (or maybe it was being hijacked by Robert Desnos.)

  42. r. Says:

    i think for david to be engaged in what basically boils down to him trying to exorcise the last vestiges of his ‘gaijin complex’ (i know him personally, and can attest to his statement that he is basically ‘over it’…or seems to be) here on his blog in plain sight is commendable. consider the alternative: instead of david doing what he is doing now, he could be doing something much WORSE 20 years from now, like writing smarmy articles in some ex-pat internet magazine on why self-engendering a sense of one’s ‘inner gaijin’ isn’t just NOT uncool, it is simply THE thing to do!

    grim picture, isn’t it?

    so in the meantime, three cheers for marxy!
    hip-hip…

  43. Japanese Business Digest Says:

    Couldn’t the type of Westerner moving to Japan these days have some impact on this phenomenom. That is, 20 years ago Americans (to use an example) studied Japanese and moved to Japan for business. These days, Japanese teachers report that 90% of those signing up do it for cultural reasons–they love manga, anime, Japanese video games, etc. (I’m trying to repress laughter here).

    Now, most smart businessmen use chances to meet others as networking opportunities, so any awkwardness about running into another foreigner in Tokyo would be offset by the chance to expand your network. In contrast, kids whose primary motivations are what they think of as cool have no use for the other gaijin they run into. In fact, to the anime freak (fan?), running into another America always creates the chance of ridicule.

  44. Chris_B Says:

    Japanese Business Digest: interesting point. Maybe that explains why when I see those fresh fish I always get the scent of easy money.

    Erik: where are you from anyways? Havent you ever been upset about how a neighborhood has changed? If you dont live in a place with neighborhoods, maybe you’ve never had that feeling.

    bo peep: thanks for helping us to understand the obvious.

    marxy: in addition to Shibuya smelling like piss, Omotesando smells like ass during the summer.

  45. dzima Says:

    Go Eri!!! She’s one of the boys now.

  46. JR Says:

    “”I can’t seem to go anywhere in the hipster quarters of Nakameguro or Daikanyama without running into a half-dozen other super-skinny, intentionally dirty-looking indie-boys who’ve evidentially all moved to Tokyo to get a bit of “Gross National Cool””

    I agree with you David. I pass through Nakameguro and Daikanyama for work and am surprised to see the same skinny, blazer wearing, stubble having (Not too long though!) Bangs in the face, indy-hipsters as I did in Brooklyn.

    On a funny note, I lumped you in that catagory as well after passing you.

    Its hard to be part of a scene in its infancy, follow it, have it become part of your lifestyle, only to see it get exploited

    Ive gotten in fights in NYC after being called Shaggy, or for having a beard. Now that describes 90% of the male Brooklyn population. Damn, I almost shit my pants watching TRL on mtv… Everyone is Vincent Gallo as interpreted by Austin Kutcher.

    oh well thats life.

    wait… what am I talking about
    Oh yeah.

    Maybe this feeling is contributing to the “gaijin’s” attitude here… The whole “Ive been here/ Ive discovered this place before you”

    I like saying hello or smiling to other foreigners when I see them. You would be surprised how this breaks through the sometimes awkward barrier surrounding “Gaijin” to “Gaijin” encounters.
    Most of us are here because we like Japan, at least thats one thing in common.

    As I write this I am in Shibuya, and it does smell worse than ever… and did you notice they opened another Gas Panic on Dogenzaka? Do people still go to Gas Panic anymore? I wonder how they make money.

  47. John Says:

    Marxy,

    I’m finding all this extremely interesting. Here in China, we call this the “Marco Polo Syndrome.” Real fluency in Mandarin is still somewhat rare, and many Chinese people still think foreigners are cool. In any case, the “I hate all other foreigners” attitude is prevalent. I wonder how closely China’s future (at least in terms of MPS) will resemble Japan’s present.

    If I was “naive,” I would be “lacking understanding” and you wouldn’t be reading my blog.

    Haha, well put. I’ll have to remember that line…

  48. marxy Says:

    These days, Japanese teachers report that 90% of those signing up do it for cultural reasons–they love manga, anime, Japanese video games, etc.

    I started studying Japanese in the mid-late 90s, and at that time, all the Business kids had already gone over to Chinese, which was great for me – more resources, less students. There were the anime kids, but the “Japan cool” hipsters are a new 21st century phenomenon. At least in my class, I was the only one asking the prof about Cornelius lyrics. I’m could imagine that this is now commonplace.

    On a funny note, I lumped you in that catagory as well after passing you.

    I got a haircut and shaved the beard, so now I’m back to looking like a 16 year-old Ryan O’Neil-type preppie. (You passed me? Who am I talking to?)

    Most of us are here because we like Japan, at least thats one thing in common

    Well, that was my point: here’s all these kids with similar interests, and we all hate each other.

  49. Daniel Hengeveld Says:

    Hey, I just wrote a little piece on this – trying to get at why the expats are so antagonistic to the newbies. you can find it at: http://zedh.com/dh/2005/04/what-are-you-doing-with-that-textbook.html

  50. Graham Says:

    At least in my class, I was the only one asking the prof about Cornelius lyrics. I’m could imagine that this is now commonplace.

    As someone who has recently been and may soon be again in a university Japanese class in the U.S…. from what I can tell I was the only one in the room to have heard of Cornelius, and this because a friend who’s in college radio had heard I was studying Japanese and gave me some stuff to listen to.

    My classes were full of people who love anime, video games, and business. And don’t forget the Japanese-Americans who are trying to learn to talk to their grandparents. The people on my abroad program in Chiba? Mostly the same, only with a dash of imperialists who hadn’t studied Japanese at all.

  51. Justin Says:

    As a strange UK/US hybrid person who lived in Japan and is planning on heading back in a couple years, it’s interesting to skim through all these comments. I can relate to some of them and others not so much. One thing I do think is interesting is how quickly expats living in Japan forget is just how rare a breed they really are. Someone said earlier that they keep meeting people who ‘want to go to Japan’ when they’re back in their home country. This is because Japan is part of your personal experience and it will naturally come up in conversation. In other words, in a typical American city (and no, NYC/LA residents, you do not live in a typical American city), you could walk around for days (weeks?) without running into someone else who has even been to Japan, much less lived there. My point? The foreigners living in Japan come from all over the place for a variety of reasons but are all inherently similar in that they’re weird for leaving their home country and moving to Japan. This is not a bad thing at all, but it’s true. In other words, can’t we all just get along? Wouldn’t that be nice. :)

  52. JR Says:

    “I got a haircut and shaved the beard, so now I’m back to looking like a 16 year-old Ryan O’Neil-type preppie. (You passed me? Who am I talking to?)”

    We never met.

    Oh, and the 16 year-old Ryan O’Neil prep look is so passé…
    You should be be drawing from the 40 year old “So Fine” Ryan O’Neil look. Plastic ass windows are this years preppie.

  53. Kikko Man Says:

    The otaku thing… seems many of the foreigners attracted to Japan have that obsessesive tedious tendancy but just don’t know how to go about it with a little cool and class. The Japanese do it to… going abroad, becoming expert in some minute little detail of the culture of some non-Japanese nation, but they don’t usually go around acting like their the “shit” because of it. A few do, but the ones doing it compared to the “whities” are definately few and far between. Same syndrome just a very different style.

    Never see too many Chinese doing this? Think of which countries’ expats you see doing this. Only those that are already pop-culture obsessed?

  54. marxy Says:

    Oh, and the 16 year-old Ryan O’Neil prep look is so passé…

    Yeah, I was being self-deprecating.

    The Japanese do it to… going abroad, becoming expert in some minute little detail of the culture of some non-Japanese nation, but they don’t usually go around acting like their the “shit” because of it.

    This is certainly true. Whether it be the “Marco Polo” complex or the gaijin symplex, at the root is a sense of Western superiority – a little bit Robinson Crusoe, a little bit Rudyard Kipling.

    Reading that “Marco Polo” post, I have to say that there must be something inherent about the China/Japan experiences for Westerners – masochistic language learning, racial differences, few other ex-pats – that breeds this competition in “going native.” I’ve never been to France, nor studied there, but is there this kind of competitiveness among the foreign population?

  55. r. Says:

    Justin said: The foreigners living in Japan come from all over the place for a variety of reasons but are all inherently similar…

    Robert says: Justin, while I agree with you basically, I think you are forgetting that Tokyo isn’t like some NYCesque melting pot (of course NYC is more of an emulsion, but I don’t want to get into that right here) in that as you say, there are a few non-Japanese living here (a safe figure would be around 3 or 5%), but they tend to REALLY stay within their ethinic groups/communities here without much mixing.

    I would ask my fellow expatriates on this thread: How many BLACK friends to you have here (from Africa or otherwise)? How many middle eastern friends? How many non-Japanese asian friends? Now compare that number to the number of your Japanese friends expressed as a ratio and tell me what that is…

    Just ‘being here’ as expats together is’nt enough for me. I need some larger SOMETHING to bind me together with my fellow humans…WHEREVER I may be. That why I for one tend to go to extremes when trying to branch out and add more diversity to the spectrum of my friends here.

  56. marxy Says:

    How many BLACK friends to you have here (from Africa or otherwise)?

    None, but I think it has much more to do with employment patterns than racism. I know Western foreigners I’ve met in the magazine/music worlds, but I don’t know any Iranians or Africans in the cultural industries. I don’t have any Japanese friends in construction, let alone foreign ones.

    The problem with Japan in general is that there’s very little that foreigners can do here without Japanese fluency, and if you’re not even some part of the learning industry (teacher or student), there’s not much left but to hawk trinkets on the street or run hip hop shops or do jobs that Japanese don’t want to do.

    The trick with America is that, as much as I have lots of Asian-American, Indian-American, African-American friends, they’re all “American.” I admittedly don’t hang out with anyone who has come straight from Pakistan, even in NY. With no real widespread concept of “(nationality)-Japanese” in Japan, there’s not much integration, and everybody not Japanese is generally a first-generation immigrant. This won’t be true in 10-15 years (look at the rainbow of kids currently in elementary school), but right now, you’re just “Iranian” or “Nigerian” or “American,” not “Nigerian-Japanese.”

  57. John Says:

    r,

    Truly, diversity is a good thing.

    But isn’t seeking out diversity in order to diversify your “friend portfolio” just the other extreme of seeking out only friends of a certain ethnicity?

  58. r. Says:

    david, i agree with what you are saying…but you are forgetting one of the major multi-ethinic ’employers’ in japan: the u.s. military. now of course, along with all of that wonderful diversity goes…well, some other more dubious qualities, but again, i don:t think this is the right time or place.
    so i:ll ask another question to everyone reading this who is an expat in japan: do you have any friends in the military here? (or are you in the military yourself?)
    i say this because i have a favorite watering hole near a major military base in yokohama, and i go there once in a while (i tuck my hair up in my hat first) and share a Bud with some of the flyboys. i don:t go there to talk about chomsky, naturally, i just go to drink and find out what these guys ARE all about and what they think of japan.
    some of you who know me might think it would be impossible for me to fit in at a place like that, but actually, i do a pretty good ‘american’ impersonation, and the fact that both my mother and father were in the air force give me all the excuse i need…
    anyway, most of the multi-ethnic cannon fodder i:ve met there i wouldn:t give the time of day, but there is a layer of interesting dissention there as well.
    and out if it, i:ve made a non-japanese, non-asian friend or two.
    now i:ve just got to hang out at club harlem in shibuya more and meet the african crowd guys who are trying to pass themselves off as american hip hop stars to get the b-girls…
    too many demographics, too little time!

  59. r. Says:

    he said: Truly, diversity is a good thing.

    But isn’t seeking out diversity in order to diversify your “friend portfolio” just the other extreme of seeking out only friends of a certain ethnicity?

    and i say: if that is ALL i did, or if that was the ONLY reason, i would STILL say NO…i:m willing to bet that sometimes ‘horses SHOULD, at least once, be lead to water, and SHOULD be made to drink’ just for their own good. they can always refuse to repeat the experience later.

  60. JR Says:

    “Yeah, I was being self-deprecating.”

    Oh thats what that was. O.K.

    Oh, and I was JOKING.

  61. r. Says:

    nick said (way upstream): I actually resent every second I’m with non-Japanese in Japan, and hate to be in a place where other non-Japanese are present.

    and i say: wow, it must suck to be you in japan! this explains why nick will never be any fun to take to places like 新大久保, 中華街, or 渋谷. too many undesirables (koreans, 2nd gen. koreans, chinese, blacks) crawling out of the woodwork! if this is part of your ‘staying foreign in japan’ package, then you should really do a reality check. the caucasian is the minority here among minorities, so all of that “resent” you are harbouring towards your fellow minorities will, I’M SURE, get picked up on sooner or later.

    news flash: momus gets his ass kicked by a gang of protesting kurdish refugees near the UN university near aoyama who decided (you can almost taste the irony here) to vote with their feet.

  62. r. Says:

    and not to pick on nick…but i:m just in the perfect mood today to expose some of the spellbinding paradoxes that are his statements on japan…if he really DOES (in his words)”resent every second [he’s] with non-Japanese in Japan, and hate to be in a place where other non-Japanese are present” but at the same time he INSISTS on maintaining his functional illiteracy in the japanese language (there is numerous blogging on my part dealing with this), then the interesting thing to me seems to be that nick is spending all of his time in japan PHYSICALLY avoiding non-japanese (of course in his mind this just means caucasians, i:m just extending the meaning to give a semantic critique as well) or at least LOATHING them when they are in his presence IN A LANGUAGE that he himself should, by extension, also LOATHE, since it is probably VERBALLY the thing furthest from a purely JAPANESE experience. that must be really a mindfuck. gee, nick, you should at least have the decency –not to mention wherewithal of argumentative consistency — to hate your fellow non-japanese IN THE JAPANESE LANGUAGE!!! (which, honestly speaking, is geared up to be its own little pretty hate machine for this very function, but again, time and place, time and place…)

  63. marxy Says:

    i have a favorite watering hole near a major military base in yokohama, and i go there once in a while (i tuck my hair up in my hat first) and share a Bud with some of the flyboys.

    My simple rule is: I will not hang out with people in Japan whom I would not befriend back home – whether that means foreigners or Japanese versions of Americans I do not get along with (serious financial types, frat guys, etc.)

    I don’t hang out with soldiers when I’m in NYC or Florida: why should I in Japan?

  64. r. Says:

    well the fact that you and i hang out has to say SOMETHING good about SOMETHING!
    my simple rule is: i’m trying to break my simple rules about who i do and do not hang out with.

  65. r. Says:

    oh, i finally get what you are saying about nezu 1-chome!
    even THAT looks tough, bro.

  66. Chris_B Says:

    I’m kinda lucky in a sense that I’m in IT. Besides hiring migrant labor to do the work they dont want to do, they hire us wetbacks to do the work they cant, like hardcore IT stuff. Its become a stereotype that most of the South Asians (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc) guys I run into here are database guys. Lots of Chinese and Korean programmers sweatshopping away as well. Networking is pretty much dominated by Americans, often the best guys are ex-servicemen.

    My team is managed by a native Japanese (of course) and lead by a Black American, includes another native japanese and a guy who is half Equadorian/half Japanese. Me I’m just a cracker who never could have passed enlistment when I was young enough. The two Unix guys I work with are central/eastern European whites. Our two Windows admins are Indian. There are a few brits and mixed european globetrotters doing market data services and a variety of HK/Taiwan/Malasian/Phillipines types in other areas. I’ve often heard it said that countries where English proficiency is high do well in IT, but as r says “wrong time wrong place” for that topic…

    As for military guys, I meet alot of ex-servicemen who I often end up being friends with. I didn’t have many in the US (outside of family and miltary punks I partied with in Austin) but I think the reason I know more here is that there is a large military population in residence and a certain number of em will settle down here when their TOD is over, so I’m more likely to encounter them here than in NYC.

    r: I never thought of it before, but I kinda pity Momus in a new way after thinking more on his statement.

    momus: If you were serious, I just feel sorry for you. You are missing out on alot of good people.

  67. r. Says:

    chris: i think the thing that is interesting nicks ultra-selectivity about what kind of ‘japan’ he experiences. (of course, he’ll chalk it up to his ‘eternal visitor’ status, but…) non-japanese (red, yellow, black or white) are a PART (granted a small part, but nevertheless!) of the ‘japan experience’, so if you are interested in japan why NOT also have an interest in this part of it? this is also another misnomer about this country…the idea of any kind of ‘purity’ or ‘singularity of culture’. don’t mention the chinese presence here to nick! (we know from his blog that his hong kong/china experience didn’t really tickle his fancy!) but the fact is that i remember him blogging a year or two ago about his visit to an Ainu village on display in a gallery or something, singing their praises…well they sure as heck aren’t ‘japanese’. did he loathe every moment of there curated ‘non-presence’ in that gallery with him?

  68. Momus Says:

    I think it’s terribly amusing that the perfectly reasonable desire to come to Japan and hang out with Japanese is being portrayed here as “ultra-selectivity”!

  69. r. Says:

    now that you mention it, nick, ‘ultra-selective’ IS amusing! i should have said something more accurate, like ‘bigoted’…

  70. graham Says:

    It is reasonable to come to Japan to hang out with Japanese. I spent most of my time in Tokyo trying to avoid spending time with Americans. This was designed to help me learn Japanese quickly. This is why I don’t quite understand Momus’ version of gaijin-avoidance.

  71. Momus Says:

    Ah, a bigot in r’s lexicon is someone who refuses to hang out with people of his own race!

  72. Kikko Man Says:

    Self-hating Swede??? Isn’t just hanging out with Japanese because they are Japanese shallow and suggests their Japaneseness not their individual charcter is your reason. Not trying to bash Momus although I am mad I wasn’t on his last album.

  73. Momus Says:

    This notion that individual character has nothing to do with culture is characteristic of individualist cultures.

  74. r. Says:

    momus, you sly fox! don’t try and fudge at this point in the game what you said earlier upstream! out of respect for your senority (which may be part of the reason you seem to be suffering from selective amnesia) i’ll refresh your memory…

    nick: “I actually resent every second I’m with non-Japanese in Japan, and hate to be in a place where other non-Japanese are present.”

    if we are to follow what you say to the letter (this level of scrutiny is prudent, since you aren’t exactly known to mince words, or choose them carelessly), its as plain as the nose on your face that you are talking about “non-japanese” and NOT “people of my own race” when indicating the group of people within whose presence you loathe to be.

    so either you need to RETRACT your previous staement and clarify that the group that you really DISTAIN is your in fact your own (CAUCASIAN) OR admit that…well, the obvious fact that “non-japanese” is a pretty darn big group to categorically HATE to be with (yes, even in JAPAN, i’m afraid), and along with that admission acquiesce to my observation that your attitude is nothing short of being bigoted.

    of course, your refesual to do so would only lend new meaning to the header of your webpage, no? momus, crepuscular (in word and deed regarding his fellow man) art-RUDEboy and…(and nothing more)

    in the words of chris_b, master of the pragmatic universe: “If you were serious, I just feel sorry for you. You are missing out on alot of good people”

  75. Kikko Man Says:

    The notion that Japanese want be befriended because they are Japanese is characteristic crazy cultures.

  76. Chris_B Says:

    momus: I’m waiting to see if you can Ali float out of this one without falling to the mat like a glass jaw intellectual. Tell us please, who is it you hate to be around? Maybe this is just one of those things that as people get old they no longer want to have their mindset challenged?

  77. r. Says:

    and actually, if we are to uphold the spirit of the immortal words of Pigkiller (“No matter where you go, there you are”) then we see that someone who hates his race (a part of which he represents) also hates himself by extension (although he may not be aware of it).

    but this is extreme folly, since the debth and breadth of all things fair and foul -the potential for our in/humanity itself- are inherent within the HUMAN race, and that which dictated your birthright and upbringing (and thus the great part of your ‘being’ and character) was wholly by chance. any one of us (even nick for that matter) could just as easily been born as the object of affection in question: a japanese. the fact that we WEREN’T, however, doesn’t instantly qualify us for anyone’s hatred, resentment…or shunning.

    the cumbersome device that momus apparently carries around on his back (and with him, apparently, all the way to japan–such baggage!) invites one to imagine a hermit crab-like shell, composed of decades of accretions of pre-judgement and bias toward his own kind (as they are present here in japan). as it increases in weight and size, it also increases in its effectivness at shielding him from other similar creatures as he scuttles about to and fro, foraging after even more impregnable shells. but what can shield you from yourself, nick?

  78. marxy Says:

    I would hope all Momus is trying to say is “If I’m come all the way to Japan, why would I eat McDonalds?” If you’re just a tourist, you’re trying to buy as much authenticity as possible in a short time, and too long near Gas Panic will make you want your money back.

  79. marxy Says:

    A while ago, Japanese Business Digest said:

    Now, most smart businessmen use chances to meet others as networking opportunities, so any awkwardness about running into another foreigner in Tokyo would be offset by the chance to expand your network.

    If building up social capital is really your goal in Japan, you should work like hell to befriend the Japanese in the Japanese language, because there’s no one more rich in Tokyo-related social capital than the Japanese themselves. There are very, very few foreigners in Japan who are hooked into the main centers of power and money, and if entry is your goal, your “network” should always aim for Japanese over foreigners.

  80. JR Says:

    I think there was a hint of VICE sarcasm in Nick’s post. A hint of overexaggeration maybe?… Anyway, I hope so.

  81. BystanderK Says:

    Bystander whoops and applauds Roberts magnifique dressing down hes giving momus…Go Rob GO !

    (If this “debate” had sports/boxing commentary the words “fiesty young contender”,”matured titlest”, “thrashing through his defences”, “hohh half hearted comeback, really dissappointing”,”expected better from the old vangaurd”, “looking woobly”, “not much coming back”,”oh..oh..oh ! I think he’s down”

    Incidentally, the demographic of people you hang with is pretty much linked to your strata of employment (as marxy stated) Incidentally, what does everybody do here to pay the rent ?

    Everybody cant be full time bloggers, musicians, magazine contributors ?

  82. marxy Says:

    Everybody cant be full time bloggers, musicians, magazine contributors ?

    I’m funded by Japanese taxpayer dollars and do industrial translation on the side.

  83. BystanderK Says:

    Funded ? to do ?
    study ? arts ?

    tokorode Im IT.

  84. Momus Says:

    The non-Caucasian non-Japanese r raises are a red herring he’s introduced to allow him to play the racism card on me when it’s perfectly clear that I’m the opposite of a racist: my position is that I avoid people of my own culture and race in Japan, just as a certain kind of Japanese in London does not go to the trouble of arranging visas, college fees etc just to spend time in a little room with another Japanese person watching videos of Tamori and Takeshi and eating ramen. It’s nothing to do with “authenticity”, though, and it’s also nothing to do with age. In my case it’s a desire for an immersive “way of being”, and it’s aesthetic because my life is determined by aesthetic factors above all. I’m afraid I find the “way of being” of many Americans unbeautiful: boring and predictable at best, offensive at worst. Look how quickly r became offensive in this thread about my age, and look how competitive he is about his Japanese skills, how he boasts about the range of his acquaintances, etc! It’s just aesthetically repugnant. Studies have shown that Japanese tend not to do this kind of boasting. Akira Miyahara of Seinan Gakuin University writes:

    “How an individual goes about disclosing oneself and how he/she values it varies depending on how the self is construed. In the European-American context, if a person wants to be perceived as competent and successful, boasting (positive self-disclosure) appears to be a better strategy than disclosing negatively. In Japanese culture the inclination to self-criticize (negative self-disclosure) may be a way to affirm the identity of the self as interdependent. This is a display of the individual’s willingness to engage in the process of self-improvement that may be accomplished only by maintaining harmonious relationships with others – an important element of the interdependent, Japanese sense of well-being (Kim, 1999).”

    http://www.acjournal.org/holdings/vol3/Iss3/spec1/Miyahara.html

  85. marxy Says:

    Who’s throwing the red herring here?

    Studies have shown that Japanese tend not to do this kind of boasting.

    I don’t think the Japanese have a monopoly on humility and modesty. These are strongly considered virtues in the United States, but our society rewards legitimacy and power based on talent/merit (not just position), so we are constantly forced to sing our own praises to get others’ attention. To be a good member of Western society, however, is to know the tender balance between self-confidence and boasting.

    I do appreciate the Japanese sense of modesty, but I honestly worry about this extension from a “modesty of self-explanation” to a “modesty of effort.” In other words, in Japan you are often penalized for going in the extra mile, broadening your horizons, trying difficult things – even if you don’t talk about it. Girls in middle-school say they will be a “housewife” when they grow up as not to “brag” about their real aspirations.

    What bothers me more, however, is that the Japanese scholar and politician love to talk about how great their modest, self-critical population is, but behind closed doors, Japan’s winners are boastful, bullying, unrestrained parties like the yakuza. It’s as if the authorities are saying “lay down your arms” so that the armies don’t have too much resistance in securing victory.

  86. r. Says:

    i categorically REFUSE to refuse to hang out with ANY members of my (the HUMAN) race.

  87. Momus Says:

    Good grief, Marxy, is there any Japanese trait that you can’t turn into a government plot?

  88. Chris_B Says:

    momus: in your non-lingustic adventures in wonderland, have you ever dealt with the “俺俺タイプ”? Most people who work here have for sure. I’ll tell you this, my boss expects alot more toadying from us wetbacks than he does from his pureblood underlings and makes it quite clear to us. “お前は何もできないだろ!” pretty much each and every day. Modesty? Only to the outside or to his superiors. And that is pretty damn common for most of the managers I’ve worked for here.

  89. matt Says:

    Good points, gaijin-complex, langauge-nazi’s, everting the stare of other whitey will crusing through Daikanyama, makes you want to get a green army truck and a loud-speaker sound-system – kill whitey!!!

  90. dzima Says:

    Robert’s comments up thread throw a whole new light on this Momus ‘Clique Opera’ entry

    http://www.livejournal.com/users/imomus/52403.html

    where he says about himself:

    “I can also seem aloof and arrogant. I don’t have a good relationship with authority. I dislike being told what to do, and would rather work out my own way of doing things than learn well-established routines. (…) I’m very, very spoiled. I’m improvising over a tight backing band and hoping to garner all the applause”.

    Does that mean that he doesn’t want to hang out with non-Japanese in Japan and, since he doesn’t speak Japanese (very well), will have to be around Japanese people who speak English and therefore expect to be treated like a kind of Eminent Gaijin-san ‘garnering all the applause’?

  91. r. Says:

    momus said (about me): …and look how competitive he is about his Japanese skills, how he boasts…

    and i say: and you momus, in turn, have been boasting about your NON-language skillz for quite some time now, yes? and what does that make you exactly? the poster boy for aesthetic non-repugnance?

    at least i can always choose to NOT brag (btw, i:m not such a braggart) about skills i have at some point in the future. you can only choose to brag about skills you DON’T have.

    denizens of this blog, i beseech you! which position would you rather be in?

  92. Kikko Man Says:

    Momus: Not to bash the production genius behind some of Kahimi Kurie’s better work, but isn’t pointing at or out the fool(the obnoxious American) even more foolish than being the fool? I’m not calling “r” a fool. Just pointing out more of Momus’ hypocrisy. Also, Momus, if one lives up to a stereotype, old people being intolerant humorless bores stuck in their rutted old ways, then I guess one might be lumped into that sterotype.

    Isn’t affected modesty just as boastful when you know the person intentionaly means the opposite of what they say. I know many Far East Asians are sincere in their modesty but many of them are not.

    By the way, Sottish people are not exactly famous for their modesty. And remember, those Scots contributed quite a bit to the way Americans are today.

  93. Thick witted villager Says:

    Jeers from the mob – “Momus is a witch ! BURN HIM, BURN HIM !”

  94. Chris_B Says:

    r: you are such a braggart about not bragging

  95. r. Says:

    i am SO a fool (in the mr. t. “I Pity the Fool” sense) it isn’t even funny! obviously i was educated beyond my intelligence…can i get a refund?

  96. r. Says:

    Kikko Man seZ: By the way, Sottish people are not exactly famous for their modesty. And remember, those Scots contributed quite a bit to the way Americans are today.

    and roBert be sayin’: but nick is a whole lot more than just your average pain of scottish lips! he’s a kinder, gentler, Scot! he’s the veritable “yentl” of the highlands…

  97. r. Says:

    isn’t this about the point at which a certain someone tends to make one of his now famous ‘dis-appearances’ from threads-turned-fiascos on neomarxisme, consolidating his position on his blog in the form of an essay that has nothing whatsoever to do with what was discussed here?
    not yet? ok…

  98. r. Says:

    ok…promise this is the last one till someone else posts!
    but i just thought the folks here would like to know that i’ve actually found untenable proof that nick HAS IN FACT spent some time (of his own volition) with (non-Caucasian) ‘gajin’ in japan.
    get the low-down here…

    http://glitchslaptko.blogspot.com/2004/12/on-genealogy-of-blind-gaijin-you-are.html

  99. Momus Says:

    Sometimes it seems that the only way gaijin in Tokyo can bond is by slandering other Tokyo gaijin. I was at a dinner at Maisen earlier in the year with about ten Tokyoites, Western and Japanese. Half the table was gaijin agreeing wholeheartedly about the insufferability of a gaijin we all knew, the other half was Japanese people bitching about an absent Japanese. It was hard not to join in if you had a juicy anecdote about the terribleness of the people under discussion, but there are much nicer ways to feel a sense of togetherness.

  100. Chris_B Says:

    all people are united by a common love of gossip!

  101. r. Says:

    actually, when the boys and i had drinks the other day, i spoke with nothing but the highest of respect for you, nick!

  102. r. Says:

    comment 105!

  103. Jamie Says:

    I am from Vancouver Canada, and I have just stumbled accross this thread. I went to Japan for the first time in March on business. I was surprised to find that several foreigners (mainly caucasians) I met/saw refused to talk to me and behaved in a very alienating fashion, like I have never seen in the West (except in Paris, France).
    I don’t speak Japanese, and I certainly didn’t go there to escape anything I resent back home. But could it be that some or even most of you guys are trying to escape something you resent or makes you unhappy? And would’t people who look like you need to be escaped from at the same time?
    And does anyone amongst you wish they could change their skin colour? And if so, have you ever thought that, maybe, on the inside, you look a bit like Micheal Jackson on the outside!?Aren’t some of you in denial, trying to escape what you are?
    Or, do you think that being different in Asia gives you the cutting edge of popularity, which, of course, you would rather not share??

    I mean, what is it!? Please someone enlighten me.

    Just for the record, I found this behaviour to be uniform wherever, from the workplace, to the Gym, to Shibuya, Ginza, Yokahama and Roppongi.

    More thoughts, please.

    jamie

  104. Kikko Man Says:

    Jamie:

    It’s unfortunate you came from Vancouver where most people, even strangers are often very friendly and at least polite. Remember many of the assholes you ran into on the streets in Tokyo are rejects. Not all, not even the majority, but many of them figure, “if my countrymen hate me cause I’m a prick, maybe I can go somewhere else and they’ll just figure I’m “odd” casue I’m a foreigner.”

  105. Remi Says:

    Just a thought : how many (regular?) readers of this blog, and of Momus’, and of Robert’s, don’t have English as their mothertongue?
    (me : French)

  106. r. Says:

    remi seZ: Just a thought : how many (regular?) readers of this blog, and of Momus’, and of Robert’s, don’t have English as their mothertongue?
    (me : French)

    and r. sez: remi, that:s a start in the right direction, but a REALLY revealing question would be…how many people who speak japanese as their native language read this blog, nick:s, blog and my blog and UNDERSTAND what they are reading? honestly, i think that number would be paltry…

    this gets into something that i:ve always said about nick:s split ‘identity’ (as a the last living inde alterna star) the way he is ‘known’ in europe and america is thru his ‘prose’ (current blogging included) and his lyrics. his ‘music’ is just a vehicle for these concepts.

    in japan, almost no one has any hope of understanding all of the subtle things in his lyrics or the ideas on his blog, and the translations are not really superior in the first place, so how nick winds up being ‘understood’ here in japan is just that his fans can hum the melody of his tracks, or they enjoy his interesting pictures or graphics or something like that. so not a ‘textual’ presence, but a ‘sensual/graphic’ one…and one that i:m sure he:s been aware of from his first tour in japan.
    now the interesting thing is, that rather than try and bring these two different ways of being ‘known’ closer together, nick has been involved in a long-term project of further seperating them from each other. reasons for this and the effects of this would actually cause a long and twisted discussion, and i don:t have time for that right here. but the choice itself is interesting…
    which is why, when he goes to say, a place like hokkaido like he did this year, as a guest sound artists or whatever, the main thrust of his work is FORCED into being something like what he did…a kind of abstract work of pure sound…as opposed to revealing the intellectual underpinnings that were there (as he might be tempted to do if his working environment were europe or america…).
    so if we imagine momus as a lecturer at a japanese university or something like that, we begin to get a very amusing picture. a subtle intellect that literally is forced into expressing itself in non textual ways…
    but this is probably VERY enjoyable for nick, actually, and causes him into new ways of being as an artist.
    but again, i always wonder, if his textual/lyrical ideas were explained to the kids over here in japanese, and they were allowed to respond in japanese…how would that situation develop….

  107. renold Says:

    Does that mean that he doesn’t want to hang out with non-Japanese in Japan and, since he doesn’t speak Japanese (very well), will have to be around Japanese people who speak English and therefore expect to be treated like a kind of Eminent Gaijin-san ‘garnering all the applause’?

    I think that sums it up.

  108. mariposa Says:

    This thread sure is entertaining though it seems to have (d)evolved into a personal critique towards the end there. I wish I had stumbled across it when it was still hopping…

    I never intended to move to Japan and I’m still not sure I have. I had one month’s notice before leaving, and my work comittment here is month-to-month. Regrettably I don’t speak Japanese, but this enables me to have a (sometimes depressing) sense of detachment about the place. Also, I’m not an English (or Spanish) teacher, nor am I a Japanophile, so I (think I) have a sense of distance from my fellow expats. Not to mention the distance I feel from Japanese, including those I can speak with. I call this “bubble-girl” – I am completely surrounded by people, yet utterly alone (not to be cliche). I find that listening to Air, “People in the City” is excellent accompaniment for that walk through Shinjuku station.

    Sometimes it gets me down, sometimes I choose to see at as an interesting opportunity, something to put hair on my chest, so to speak. Like marxy I also don’t make friends with people I wouldn’t spend time with in “ordinary circumstances”, but back home in Pittsburgh how often do I have the opportunity to meet a Kenyan fluent in Japanese? We may not be able to discuss Dostoyevsky, but I sure am learning a lot from him about his culture and his take on the Japanese.

    I guess that’s why I like Tokyo. Also why I hate it: it’s a world-class city to be sure, but it’s not “Japan” – a land I’m currenlty unable to access because of my language inabilities.

    As a note of relativism: if you find the “expat type” repugnant here, try on for size those in backwaters like Central America. Drug addicts, pedophiles, or merely living on the cheap, taking advantage of the inherent mobility and advantages afforded by their upbringing in the first world… (not all, of course!)

    Well, no-one will ever read this probably, but I’ve said my piece.

  109. marxy Says:

    Regrettably I don’t speak Japanese, but this enables me to have a (sometimes depressing) sense of detachment about the place.

    To quote Piet Mondrian:

    “To be alone is (for the great) the opportunity to penetrate and know the self, the true man, the god-man and, in the highest case, god. In this way one becomes greater, one becomes conscious, one becomes, finally, God. How can that be harmful?”