Tokyo. What a foreign city. I’ve travelled all over the world, and Asia in particular, and need have I been anywhere else that seems, so, different. I just arrived last night for my third trip to this place, and I’m still really just leaning how to get the hang of it. The first time I came was in 2013 with Amon Tobin who was headlining a big rave type of festival in an airplane hanger on the outskirts of town. He had invited me to come along and told me that the promoter who looked after him would dial up all sorts of fun things for us to do while we were here. Sounded great to me, so I booked my flight and hotel and off I went. I didn’t bother doing any research, or even buying a city guide book because I figured that we wouldn’t need it. Big mistake. Whoops.
We arrived at night and had a quick dinner at the hotel and then went to sleep and headed to the venue the next morning for setup and sound check. The show was amazing, there were about 10,000 kids going nuts and after the show the promoter camas backstage and started talking to us and at one point Amon asked what the plan was for the week… what sort of things did they have cooked up for us? He got a funny look on his face and let us know that not only would he not be looking after us, but that his whole staff wouldn’t be able to help either. Turned out this festival cal was a traveling event and for some reason they only booked Anon for the Tokyo gig, so the entire company would be on the road dealing with it. So just like that, we were on our own.
Now Tokyo is a strange place, especially for Westerns, and it can begin to feel lonely, fast, which was so stunningly portrayed in Lost In Translation. There are a few things that make it that way, the list notable being the language barrier, and the alphabet. Try few people speak English here, and of course the alphabet doesn’t help either. The second lost striking thing is that it is a vertical city, sure, New York has tons of tall buildings as well. But the difference is that so much of the retail and restaurants are located up on higher floors, and when you can’t read anything, it’s very hard to get a grasp of where anything might be. In most cities you can just wander around and look inside of windows and it’s very obvious very quickly what sort of establishment you’re looking at. But in Tokyo you have no idea of what is where. So it turned into just a lot of walking around and stumbling into different places. Up staircases and around corners and just opening doors. Sushi maybe? Nope this is a lingerie shop! Whoops. Try again, Gaijin!
To add to the frustration of finding things, for some reason neither mine nor Amon’s phones would connect to the local networks. We both had AT&T at the time and I guess maybe they had been in a fight with the Japanese carriers? No idea, really. But we were phone less, and although I can’t remember why now, there must have been a good reason why we didn’t just get local sim cards. Ah the cruel and sweet irony of being lost without technology in the most technologically advanced city in the world.
We were staying smack dab in the middle of Shibuya Crossing, the worlds busiest intersection, in a Tokyo’s version of Times Square. But on steroids. The electrical kind that GodZilla was hopped up on. So each trip outside of the hotel was an exercise in widening concentric circles. Each time I left I wandered just a bit further. I was deathly afraid of getting lost. I had taken a business card from the hotel, and one night when I was further away that I thought was smart, I didn’t worry too much because I had that card. And I finally hopped into a cab and showed him the card. He was flummoxed. And I was tucked. He had no idea where he was going and we ended up riding around for more than an hour until I finally saw something that looked familiar. And made it home. The next day I was understandably gun shy… but still left the hotel and this time I navigated the subway system and made it to the fashion district of Harujuku. Where I discovered an amazing scene of Japanese youth who were all seemingly anime characters come to life! I finally knew what Gwen Stefani was talking about. THIS SHIT WAS BANANAS!!! B-A-N-A-N-A-S! I ended up buying an enamel pink of a couple of banana that I still keep on my deni jacket to this day.
Now this trip is different. 5 years later and Tokyo seems to be more welcoming to westerners. I’m not sure if it’s the 5 years, or if it’s that I’m actually building up a appreciation for how things work here, but I’m getting around OK and meeting a lot of folks.
Friday I’ll be attending Wrestlekingdom 13 at the Tokyo Dome – the Japanese equivalent of Wrestlemania. I just decided to do this a few days ago and found a cheap flight and I’m so stoked. The last two times I was in Tokyo i went to Korakeun Hall. The Mecca of Wrestling in Japan. It holds 3,000 people and they do wrestling there 7 nights a week. The first time I went was death match night with barbed wire and light tubes. Me and Amon were totally blown away. It’s right next door to the Tokyo Dome and I always thought – man how cool would it be to come back Wrestlekingdom, and now here I am. Living my dash. Every day is an adventure. and I couldn’t be more stoked. I wish Rodney was here.