Japan

The chronicles of Kohoku.

To start with, if someone could find a worse part of Tokyo to live in, point me in the right direction and I’ll check it out and get back to you. The first time I lived here I was in Takanawa. Just south of the heart of Tokyo, and whilst it felt pretty cramped (yeah, you try 20sqm, including balcony and see how you like it), it felt like you were in a party of town that said “Money”. Everyone had a Gucci bag and was getting around in the latest fashion. Oh, wait, that’s everywhere in Tokyo, Japanese simply hate to be seen with last years designs on. But anyway, it was nice. In a concrete jungle nice sort of a way. Now head 20km south, and a couple of km left and you end up in this dusty little spot called shin-yokohama. From my 7th floor window, I can see nothing but monotonous soul less office blocks. And Love Hotels. Yes, as bad luck would have it, my employer was kind enough to put me up smack in the middle of dodgy love-land. Cos I just love getting up at 3am when I cant sleep and watching the siftiest of shit taking place right outside my window. The other night (I’ll keep this breif) whilst insomnia was attacking from all angles, I thought I’d sit on the balcony and see if there was anything worth watching. I should have brought a deck chair and a cigar. I will, at this point, inform you this was a Tuesday night, and it was 3am. Insomnia never waits for the weekend. Neither, it seems, does Mr Salaryman and his couterie of mistresses. There were cars circling the block. People running in and out trying hard not to be noticed, gangster style black SUV’s with some seriously good looking girls of eastern european origin parked up, waiting for I don’t know what. This is one seriously weird part of town. If the whole idea of love hotels you find kinda repulsive, then this is not your place. And I fall squarely into that category. Given that its Japan, discretion and cleanliness is assured, but well, nah fuck that. 3am’s have never been quite so interesting however. The first time I brought my Fiancee (yay!!) back here, I think I was getting the long sideways glance from her. She’s not a love hotel fancier any more than me.

I was talking with a mate the other day about what constitues a wealthy “look” amongst various different nations. The Japanese have a very subtle way of doing it. China, on the other hand has this gaudy “flaunt it like you got it” approach, where it doesn’t matter how bad the clash is, as long as there are nasty looking stone dragons and everything is draped in gold and red, and maybe with a tiger penis or two or a bit of ground up rhino horn as a pick-me-up, then everyone will be seriously impressed. The middle eastern sheiks just go for the most expensive of absoolutely everything they can get their hands on. One trip the burj-al-arab convinces you of this. And again, if it clashes, well, that’s just too bad. Japan on the other hand is a little bit the opposite. Minimalistic everything. They love to strip things down to the basics, and get the combination of “this goes well with that” spot on. And they do a great job of it. Except for the seats with no legs. Whoever thought that wild idea up should have been disembowled. They are the most uncomfortable things ever. I think the story behind them dates from Shogun days where the Shogun’s seats *did* have legs, and no one else was ever allowed to have his (or her) head above the Shoguns at any time. That made life pretty tough for the servants bring the food in, who were basically forced to shuffle around kackhandedly serving food, all the while ensuring that the head *never* went above the Shogun’s, or else they would have said head lopped off for their insolence. And ruin dinner in the process. So yes, minimalism that looks good and works well is the key around these parts. With a touch of batshit insane thrown in for good measure. Japan is to crazy as oceans are to marine life, it’s their home environment. Its adorable however. Except for those damn seats. And Bic Camera, where every TV is playing something different, and the stereos play music fueled by chipmunks on speed. If you were ever going to have your first panic attack, just head there.

One thing that Japan is not the future on is paperwork. Sure, when they want to be futuristic, and minimal, they excel at it (nearly every other nation have 5 different bank notes, generally there is 5, 10, 20, 50 and one hundred of your flavour of currency) here you have 3. 1000, 5000 and 10000. Try going to a hospital, you get a magenetic card which all your details are kept. Diagnoses, what tests you have had done, and of course how much you owe them. All pretty efficient. To get that card however, you have to fill out reams of paperwork. To register at the ward office, another ream of paperwork. (and don’t EVER be late in registering there. I was 2 days late and they were gonna sting me 200000 yen for it. That’s $3000. The nice lady just winked at me and said “please change the date you moved into your apartment”) I understood instantly, and so with 2 days less in my apartment, a nasty fine suddenly dissapeared. But, it can go either way, so stick on the side of the rule book that is guaranteed not to cause trouble. Outside of Tokyo, things can start getting very backwards however, like ATMs that only work with that prefectures bank (and there are no other branches outside that prefecture, so if you want to come to Tokyo for the weekend, you bring a pile of cash along with you), and 90% of the time, its cash only. Restaurants  – cash. Supermarkets – cash. Taxi’s – cash. Cards not welcomed. I doubt the visa company is particularly amused. But mr Visa can take a hike if he thinks that Japan is gonna change their rules to suit him. One of the headaches of Japan is “that’s just the way it is” with a lot of things, and don’t try and change it. That’s just gonna cause trouble. And it wont change. One classic example of this is the idea of “Key Money”, which, when you want to rent an apartment, is basically a bribe. A bald faced no-fucking-around bribe. Usually about 1-2 months worth of rent, which is already enough to leave you gasping for air. But it gets worse. Oh yes. When you sign up for a contract, say 1 year (or two if you are lucky) then, you can pull out any time you like, but upon completion of the contract, then you have to pay ANOTHER bribe, equal to the first bribe, on top of your rent, just to stay where you are. In $US, just to get in through the front door, I was looking upwards of $10k. No furnishings, that was just the bribe, (to call it by its proper name…), 1 months rent, guarantors fee, agency fee, deposit and something else that I couldn’t decipher. You can guess where that ended up. Nice house however.

And finally, I’m engaged. Yay!!.

But that’s another story…

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