Friday Night

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I’m sick and shouldn’t be out.

Not to mention the looming Master’s Thesis sitting on my Desktop, waiting to have references to Yano and Condry and Aoyagi scribbled upon it. But I had to return a book in Shibuya anyway, and since I’m out, I’ll stick to oolong-cha and eat a full meal from various meats on sticks and pickled vegetables. I loudly discuss the finer points of celery seasoning with the tall Josh of Swedish descent from Minnesota, whom I help land a modeling gig later for a Vespa-riding married couple with their own hipster fashion brand based in Sendagaya. Mr. K with the K. Kimura haircut used to write the meat column for Relax back when the mag was the mag. Takashi from AG is playing host to our poor man’s banquet, and although I’m neither gay nor a hetereosexual female and my standards may be way off, I find him “dreamy.” I tell him to keep up the アンチ体制主義.

Later, I meet a Japanese girl with the same first name as a terribly blond girl I had a crush on in Bavaria back in ’97, and her “bandmates.” Q: Are you students? A: Yes. Q: Oh, where do you go? A: A regular school. Q: You’re in high school? A: Yes. Then I notice that the one dokusha model-ready, half girl and her sister (guitar and bass, respectively) are at this tragically hip opening party with their parents. I ask, how do you rebel against your elders when your dad is the guy in the tight grey suit with edgy high-water pants? She doesn’t really understand the irony of my question, illustrating perfectly the point I’m always making to my 28 year-old friend who wants nothing more than to date a 19-year old: Any self-respecting man in his 20s should find a natural inability to communicate with girls a decade his junior. Plus, I’ve always refused to hit on teenage girls on the principle that my high school self would be appalled I had become “that guy” who was in his 20s and hit on high school girls.

But for a second, let us consider these girls’ reality where “having to go to this thing with my parents” means an opening party for a fashion brand in Harajuku. These particular two seem to be enjoying it, but I talk to Yonehara’s wife later about how their 14 year-old daughter likes manga and nerdy girl stuff as a silent F.U. to the old man. Oh, how my life would have been different had I been privy to such a flashy hipster lifestyle at a young age! I’m sure I’d be happily studying lepidoptererology in Rotterdam or something. All my friends from back home moved out of town post high school, and I would imagine hipster kids do the same — in this case, leaving Tokyo for London or New York or Kanazawa. Or do the Albert Hammond, Jrs of the world congregate down the street and take over, browbeating the kids from Ohio suburbs who yearn to be part of all the stuff they saw on MTV late Sunday nights.

Ms. H goes on about some imaginary term “Japasen” for white indie guys who like Japanese girls. “Gilles Peterson is a Japasen!” she proclaims. They are on the rise.

Later, I’m with real Swedes who pronounce the word “Georgia” like they’re from Macon. Not only do they speak English ultra-fluently, but they’re comfortable conversing in a second tongue in front of each other, which is something nearly impossible for this ever growing numbers of foreign Japanese speakers. Our two guests reasonably try to hit on the cute select shop girls with Viking songs, which seems to be working. I drink orange juice and tell the one social worker at this semi-goukon how her employment will be the “charisma” job of the future.

I manage to not get charged ¥3000 for my orange juice, decline an invitation for bowling, go home listening to Yukari Rotten — an album that would be 100% perfect if it wasn’t all filler. Leaving my bedroom and going out made me feel a bit better. I’m not as stuffed up, and maybe tomorrow I’ll find the will to correct my paragraph on Christianen (1995).

W. David MARX (Marxy)
November 19, 2005

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

15 Responses

  1. Momus Says:

    Hey, you should be sick more often, it makes you write like a human being instead of a grad student!

  2. RJL Says:

    I’ll second that. This might be the first time I’ve ever felt comfortable agreeing with you, Momus, but this time, I’m with you 100%. That was the most edifying piece I’ve read here an quite a while. (that doesn’t mean I don’t also appreciate the rocks Marxy turns over in the world of J-Pop–keep that coming too!)

  3. marxy Says:

    I’m happy you liked it. The whole time I was writing it, I was thinking, I can’t post this!

  4. jed Says:

    “Not only do they speak English ultra-fluently, but they’re comfortable speaking English in front of each other, which is something impossible for the ever growing numbers of foreign Japanese speakers.”

    Care to elaborate?

  5. marxy Says:

    It’s related to the “Gaijin Complex” but there’s a psychological discomfort with speaking Japanese to another foreigner. I doubt I’m the only one who feels this. I can’t help but think that we are buying into the Japanese idea of racial purity as linguistic determinant.

  6. lilitu93 Says:

    Are you sure it’s part of the “Gaijin Complex” and not just the fact that most English speakers feel strange speaking foreign languages amongs themselves? I know when I lived in Germany, I felt weird speaking German to other English speakers, unless I was in mixed company with Germans (or German-speaking foreigners who lived in Germany). I was fluent in German at the time, so it wasn’t because I couldn’t speak the language.

    English is pretty much the international language now, and I’m sure most of the foreigners in Japan speak English, probably better than they speak Japanese. So it would be natural for a native speaker of English to “revert” back to English in the company of non-Japanese.

    I’m not saying that there isn’t some specifically Japanese aspect to what you’ve experienced, but it seems like a pretty typical English-speaking person abroad experience to me.

  7. abc Says:

    especially native english-speaking gaijins feel they have to prove their japanese skill in front of each other somtimes going OTT to show their level of integration, it looks silly. i’ve seen many people from india speak japanese to each other with no japanese people around, that’s how they improve and stay modest

  8. Jesper Says:

    What is Viking songs?

  9. marxy Says:

    I do think it’s an American thing, but for a long time, there have been social rewards based on Japanese speaking because it was so rare. These days I meet relatively fluent non-native speakers all the time.

  10. lilitu93 Says:

    It’s not just American–I think it’s native English speakers in general, including the British and the Irish. I’m not sure about Indians, as I’d assume many of them are more natively bilingual than native English speakers only. Either that, or they learned English as a second language very early on, so it’s still slightly different from people whose native language is English and only English.

  11. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    Dude, Minnesota.

  12. marxy Says:

    I was testing to see if you were reading.

  13. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    Go back to Georgia.

  14. alin Says:

    hey i’m learning something here. thanks. the girl with the tight-grey-suited father though. i think id was oedipus she wasn’t understanding rather than your humous. idunno, i could be in the wrong.

  15. hans Gullickson Says:

    “Hey, you should be sick more often, it makes you write like a human being instead of a grad student!”
    word to Momus

    have more fun with the writing. It’s more fun to read. By the way. I just started posting but I’ve been enjoying your site for a while. I’m not sur why but, yeah, It’s a bit fun.