Monday, February 27, 2006

"Lights... as Far as the Eye Can See..."

Up in a highrise in Tokyo - I look out at the lights of Tokyo and there is no end to them - the city seemingly goes on to the edges of the earth.  The size of this city is an amazing thing to behold at night.  Down on the streets it doesn't seem quite so huge, but up here in the sky, it's a sight to behold.  I suppose that's the way it is in any large city - "The city for the buildings" you could say - you can't see the city at street-level with the buildings getting in the way.

And... that's it...  I thought I would burn up the keyboard writing something about the experience, but it's a simple enough one.  You get up into a sky-side restaurant and sit by the window and the world outside seems endlessly interesting.  It would be nice to have an apartment 50 stories up - turn off the apartment lights and write while contemplating the city of lights stretched out before you like something from a science fiction story.

Hmmm..... taking a look in the windows of one of the neighboring highrises, I see people at work (it's 7:15 p.m. as I write this).  How often do they look out the windows and contemplate the world outside?  Maybe not that often at night - the interiors tend to be a bit overlit, so it's not so easy to see outside anyway.

Well - enough on that.  It seemed downright magical when I first contemplated the view, but the more I look, the more ordinary it becomes!  Truly, there is profound in the mundane and mundane in the profound!

Sore dewa!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Friday, February 24, 2006

"The Flow of Time"

I read an interesting article in Newsweek today about Japan.  It was interesting enough, but the author has only been here for a little over a year!  Added to that insult is the way mass-market magazines like Newsweek and Time homogenize the news!  All the articles are so similar in style that they could be written by the same person!  Aren't the writers who work there ashamed of that?  Don't the editors feel like they're damaging the flow of information from the writers to the readers?  Is there no feeling of shame?  There should be!  Again, the article I read today was fairly decent, if shallow and homogenised - so the fire between the lines of my text comes from years of reading homogenized news.  I'm bloody well sick of it by now!  Fast-food news, that's what it is!  Something to read on the plane that is slightly (only slightly) educational and entertaining... making you feel as though you're up and up on the latest in the world as you put the magazine away and have a meal, a drink, and watch a movie, followed by sleep and soon after awaking, another country.  I mean... it's nice, I know....  The reassuring muted roar of the jet engines, the warm glow of the wine, the feeling and the reality that you're on top of the world zinging through the air high above everything, and you can even quote some insipid news report from your sky reading when you meet someone at the airport.

That's... nice... but why isn't there a stronger quest for the truth!  Why isn't there a stronger quest for getting at the causes behind the events, and not just the superficial events themselves?  I want real food and I want real news!  ........  Now that I've generalized a bit too much, let's get into some specifics!

The article mentioned that one out of twenty marriages in Japan and one out of ten in Tokyo involve a foreign spouse.  Well... okay.  I was surprised along with the rest of the readership at this, and our sky-traveller can step off the plane and impress the locals with his "knowledge" that there are many international marriages in Japan.  Great, right?  Wrong!  Why?  Because there are a lot of "foreigners" in Japan who were born and raised here and only speak Japanese, but because they don't want to lose their family's original nationality, they stay here as permanent residents but not as citizens.  Certainly there are many Korean-Japanese here that would fit into that category.  So, of that spiffy and easily quoted "1-in-20 & 1-in-10" bit of "information" about international marriages, how many of those marriages involve people who are Japanese in everything but passport?  Details!  They can ruin the warm glow of the wine!  They can interfere with sleep!  They can prevent our sky-flyer from concentrating on the plot of the in-flight movie!  Details!  Who needs them!

The rest of the article was basically saying that Japan is pretty much like an European country now - with its own customs, but heavily influenced by the outside world - and vice versa.  Fair enough, I suppose, but when was the last time you read an article about the lost culture of America since people are not wearing the same style clothing they wore in the 18th century and (gasp!) the language has changed!  I mean... come on!  Every country changes!  The deal with Japan is that after the period of isolation, it was pretty unique, and many people around the world have been intrigued by that uniqueness ever since.  Well, we're all unique you know!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Thursday, February 23, 2006

"Empirical & Amusing"

I visited an Australian pals house last week and had a great time drinking wine, eating, talking, and watching a movie on his new wide screen TV. But... there was one point where I was going on about the naming of "Nishi-Tokyo" and my friend suddenly said "There you go again! You're always so empirical!". I was a little taken aback, as I considered it to be a non-touchy topic, especially since every local I've talked with also doesn't like the name "Nishi-Tokyo" (formerly "Hoya-shi & Tanashi-shi" - two cities that were merged and renamed "Nishi-Tokyo", which means "West Tokyo"), but I did the social thing and backtracked... for a few days that is, and then I decided to write my Australian pal a letter, which is as follows (with some names taken out to protect the guilty):

Hello Abcdef-pal,

I was thinking about your accusation that I'm too empirical, so I thought I'd respond to that. First, let's have a look at the dictionary definition of "empirical":

empirical, adj.
1. derived from or guided by experience or experiment.
2. depending upon experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, esp. as in medicine.
3. provable or verifiable by experience or experiment.
[1560-70; EMPIRIC + -AL1]
empirically, adv.
empiricalness, n.
Syn.1, 2. practical, firsthand, pragmatic.
Ant.1, 2. secondhand, theoretical.

While some of that I would agree with - that I make many decisions and take many stands "derived from or guided by experience or experiment", and I don't have a problem with the synonyms "practical, firsthand, and pragmatic", but with regards to some recent issues, like [a certain software company], [a certain bunch of politicians], etc., those are most definitely not "depending upon experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, esp. as in medicine". Especially regarding [a certain software company], I think you must know that there is something foul and very wrong with that company! As for [a certain politician], I hope [that certain politician]-supporting PR spinmeisters haven't gotten to you and made you blind. Short-term they are happy to buy their new plasma TV's, but long-term they don't care what happens to this world of ours.

Closer to home, that idiot at the company we worked at really did try to pawn off mutant English as a company slogan for the website. I wasn't able to get it all the way over to real English, but at least they fixed it grammatically. Again - this is a very real thing - and the real issue here is having the backbone to stand up against that which is wrong. An embarrassment on the company's website is a stain on everyone in the company. Again-again-again, it's real, very real. Not simply a matter of opinion.



PS - Nishi-Tokyo. I may have overstated my case on that, but I was purposely going overboard in an attempt at humor. Obviously that failed, but I'm disappointed in you that you failed to see the humor of the situation and chose to attack me on that instead.... Nishi-Tokyo is high comedy you know, in a very irritating way, but high comedy nevertheless.

And then I got a phone call from him this evening... and he stated that he was "amused" by my e-mail (Hmmm.... why does that sound like fingernails on a chalkboard?), and that he had been thinking about the Nishi-Tokyo issue and "It occurred to me that it's more cultural than geographic". I was about to answer that, when he said "But that's not why I called!" and he jumped onto other conversational tracks.

Sigh... here we go again! We talked for a bit about this and that and after hanging up, there I was in front of my computer, so I sent him another e-mail, as follows:



You mentioned that it occurred to you later that the meaning of "Nishi-Tokyo" might be more cultural than geographic? It doesn't matter mate! Either way the name enshrines the inferiority complex some people in Hoya-shi had regarding being on the fringe of the Ku's and right next to Saitama... It's... like... very nasakenai desu yo! Mattaku!

Sophistry may cloud the issue, but the issue is still there for those who open their eyes! (He-He-He!)


Yes, I know - it's foolish to be going on about this! Anyway, here is some background on what comprises Tokyo and what the issue with "Nishi-Tokyo" is. In an attempt to get you interested, I call your attention to the fact that Tokyo is not a city.... Details below:

The quick road to understanding the geographical nature of Tokyo and the cities within it, is to look at Los Angeles. When people say "Los Angeles" from afar, generally they are referring to everything within Los Angeles Country, (which includes, confusingly enough, Los Angeles City). Here is a list of the cities within Los Angeles County:

Agoura Hills, Alhambra, Arcadia, Artesia, Avalon, Azusa, Baldwin Park, Bell, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Beverly Hills, Bradbury, Burbank, Calabasas, Carson, Cerritos, Claremont, Commerce, Compton, Covina, Cudahy, Culver City, Diamond Bar, Downey, Duarte, El Monte, El Segundo, Gardena, Glendale, Glendora, Hawaiian Gardens, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Hidden Hills, Huntington Park, Industry, Inglewood, Irwindale, La Canada, Flintridge, La Habra Heights, Lakewood, La Mirada, Lancaster, La Puente, La Verne, Lawndale, Lomita, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Lynwood, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Maywood, Monrovia, Montebello, Monterey Park, Norwalk, Palmdale, Palos Verdes Estates, Paramount, Pasadena, Pico Rivera, Pomona, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Rosemead, San Dimas, San Fernando, San Gabriel, San Marino, Santa Clarita, Santa Fe Springs, Santa Monica, Sierra Madre, Signal Hill, South El Monte, South Gate, South Pasadena, Temple City, Torrance, Vernon, Walnut, West Covina, West Hollywood, Westlake Village, Whittier

Tokyo is along the same lines, but there is no Tokyo City only "Tokyo-to", and how to translate "to" is such a headache that I'm not even going to attempt it right now, so let's just simplistically and inaccurately call it a county to clarify the idea that it's an area that contains a group of cities. Another complicating factor with Japanese cities, is that whether they are called "shi" (city), "machi" (town) etc., depends upon their populations and other factors. I regularly surprise people here by explaining that in the US, a tiny town with a population of 173 can still be called a "city". In Tokyo's case, the central area is composed of "ku"s (generally translated as "ward" in English), and outside of those, there are mainly "shi"s (generally translated as "city"). But increasingly, most (all?) of them are operating just like cities. They each have a town hall, elected representative, etc. In looking around for a list of everything within Tokyo, I find on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's site:

- that Tokyo has 23 ku, 26 shi, 5 cho and 8 son. The following paragraph (from the TMG site), explains the complicated system in some detail:

"Tokyo is a metropolitan prefecture, divided into smaller administrative bodies. The 'central' region is divided into 23 special wards (ku in Japanese), and the western Tama Area is made up of 26 cities (shi), 3 towns (cho) and one village (son). The 23 special-ward area and the Tama Area together form a long, narrow stretch of land, running about 90 kilometers east to west and 25 kilometers north and south. The Izu Islands and the Ogasawara Islands, two island groups in the Pacific Ocean, are also administratively part of Tokyo, despite being geographically separated from the metropolis. The islands have between them 2 cho and 7 son."

I wanted to put a complete list of all ku's, shi's, cho's & son's in here, but I've only come up with a list of the 23 ku's and the 26 shi's, which is as follows:

Tokyo's 23 Ku's: Adachi, Arakawa, Itabashi, Edogawa, Ota, Katsushika, Kita, Koto, Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Suginami, Sumida, Setagaya, Taito, Chiyoda, Chuo, Toshima, Nakano, Nerima, Bunkyo, Minato, Meguro

Tokyo's 26 Shi's: Hachioji, Tachikawa, Musashino, Mitaka, Ome, Fuchu, Akishima, Chofu, Machida, Koganei, Kodaira, Hino, Higashi-Murayama, Kokubunji, Kunitachi, Fussa, Komae, Higashi-Yamato, Kiyose, Higashi-Kurume, Musashi-Murayama, Tama, Inagi, Hamura, Akiruno, Nishi-Tokyo

With that background out of the way, let's return to Nishi-Tokyo (West-Tokyo). As Nishi-Tokyo is right in the center of Tokyo, the term "west" only makes sense if you forget Tokyo and focus on the 23 ku's. It's a nonsensical name that looks very much like a heavy-handed and clumsy attempt to make sure people understand that that area is actually in Tokyo, and is not part of neighboring Saitama (to the north!). I should go into more detail on this, but I'm tired and you've probably stopped reading this way up the page anyway, so I'll stop here! If you want more details, send me an e-mail and I'll add something to this.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Tokyo - 1950 & 2006, Etc."

The following is composed of quotes from an e-pal in the US who was in Japan from 1949-1951 and my responses. There wasn't much of anything in Roppongi in 1950, but now it's possibly the most notorious area of the city.

Re: "In the Blog, you talked about visiting Roppongi and the train station there. I don't believe there was a train station there in 1950. I used to jump on the trolly over to Shinjuku, or was it Shibuya, and there catch a train to Yurakucho or Yutenji. Do street cars still run?"

Going to Yutenji from Roppongi via surface transportation in 1950, you would have first gone to Shibuya (or gone to Shinjuku and taken the Yamanote Line to Shibuya), and for going to Yurakucho, either Shinjuku or Shibuya would work, via the Yamanote Line or the Chuo Line (with a transfer to the Yamanote Line). Now that there are new subterranean train lines, the fastest way to Yurakucho from Roppongi would be to take the Hibiya Line three stops to Hibiya Station (which is right by Hibiya Park), and just walk over to Yurakucho (about five minutes).

Streetcars. Once people started buying cars here, the roads became so jammed up that streetcars were increasingly unreliable as a timely means of transportation. In the 1948 "Principal Part of Tokyo" map I have posted here:
- there is only one subway line - the Ginza Line, that ran (and runs) from Asakusa to Shibuya (which was originally two lines - one from Asakusa to Shinbashi and one from Shinbashi to Shibuya - they were later connected to form a single line), and now there are... thirteen different subway lines, and they're still tunneling! You should see the subway maps - guaranteed to strike terror into the hearts of lost tourists!

There is one streetcar line left - the one that runs from around Waseda University, past Otsuka (Yamanote Line), Oji, and over to Minowa (of which I have some pictures on the "One Evening in Minowa" page, here:

- but it runs on off-road rails for almost the entire way, so it's more like a one-car surface train, with only a couple of areas where it actually runs in the street - the most interesting part being going through traffic near Oji Station.

All the rest of the streetcars are gone. There are two subway lines that stop in Roppongi - the Hibiya Line and the Oedo Line. To get to Yutenji today, you would take a Hibiya Line train to Naka-Meguro and then change trains to the Toyoko Line for the one stop to Yutenji, or - if you timed it right - you could take a single train from Roppongi to Yutenji without changing trains at all. When the train runs straight through onto the next train line's tracks, they just change drivers at the border, so at Naka-Meguro, when going to Roppongi from Yutenji, the Toyoko Line driver steps out, the Hibiya Line driver steps in, and from the passengers' standpoint, it's just one train ride.

Re: "Is this a fact or just western fantasy?" [Regarding a mass-forward e-mail with pictures of Asian (Japanese?) women in impossibly small swim wear that left key parts hanging out in the breeze, entitled "The latest Japanese swimsuits (WHY BOTHER...) Goodbye Momma I'm Off to Yokohama".]

After looking over those photos, I can tell you that it's definitely not the norm in swim wear here! I think that was probably taken from a local magazine. The truth of the matter is, many men long to see such sights, and local publishing companies are only too-happy to hire some models and make the fantasy seem quite real. No big deal, but then someone from outside the country gets ahold of the magazines and sends scanned photos here and there all over the world, saying "the latest from Japan!" and the fiction is believed to be reality overseas. Certainly those look quite real - the one with the child in the photo makes it look like you'd really see those women at the local beach, but absolutely, definitely, no mistake - that is not what most (any?) Japanese women wear to the beach!

And the title, "I'm Off to Yokohama" is nonsense - there are no beaches in Yokohama! There's an artificial beach not far from Disneyland and then there are the beaches of the Izu Peninsula, but not in Yokohama (unless they've created one on a land-fill island or something that I don't know about, but I don't think so).

Re: "Just reading your latest note in your blog (I have no idea what blog means) and I see myself when I wrote 8th Cav news - "Does anyone read this?". Turned out that mostly the only responses were from those who objected to what I had to say. The approving group were silent, or I like to think that."

Thanks for pointing that out - I would have to admit that I also don't write to authors I like and say I like what they write - I just read their articles, like them, and look forward to more. If they say they're thinking of giving it up due to lack of interest, or they say something I think is wrong, then I write! As for the word "blog", it began as "web log" and then - as the story goes - an Internet writer re-spaced that to "we blog" and thus "blog" was born. I resisted that stupid word for several years, but finally gave in since it's become a standard term now. But even if the word itself doesn't make much sense, there was a need for a term to explain the phenomenon of people self-publishing their thoughts on the Internet, and so blog is good enough.

Re: "It seems that pricking people with opposing views or even misspelling their names is a sure way to get response."

I've found that criticizing Microsoft is a sure way to generate very nasty letters - so predictably and with such a high level of nastiness, that I have to wonder if Microsoft actually employs people as attack dogs to strike whenever a bad word about Microsoft gets into print.... It's weird. But being an extremely PR-conscious company, they might actually do that.

Re: "What is the current rate of exchange Yen to Dollars? I tried to find that info on internet and it seemed I ran into cousins of used car salesmen. I never did learn the exchange rate."

The last time I checked, it was about Y119 to the dollar or thereabouts. It was Y245 to the dollar when I came in 1984.

Re: "Interesting to me the talk of Roppongi. In 1950 it was just a place, and not much of one. Lots of shacks. I think it was heavily burned over by the air raids. No night clubs and no train station. There were some embassies - I recall the Russian Embassy wasn't far from our barracks. One of our men told of stealing their flag. For me, Roppongi was just a place to catch a trolley to get to the real action."

Ah... that has completely changed then! Now, just saying the word "Roppongi" makes people think "nightclubs, foreigners, discos, drugs, craziness, prostitution, etc., etc.", which is why the Canadian guy [referring to another letter here] said he never went there because he's a family man. A woman was recently found there in a parking lot - dead from an overdose of one recreational drug or another, and there was a special report on it in the news, saying that the US embassy has even put out a warning about the area recommending the unwary to avoid it! Think Ginza, take out the class, the department stores, and any sense of order and politeness and you might begin to imagine Roppongi. That doesn't mean it's cheap! Many clubs there are quite expensive, but the overriding word is "decadent". I don't particularly care for the area myself, but it is interesting!

In case you're interested, there are some nighttime photos of Roppongi (at the end of the page, the first photos were taken elsewhere) here:

- and some daytime pictures of the spiffy side of Roppongi here (located a ten minute walk away from the "fun zone":

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Thursday, February 16, 2006

"Something in the Air...."

Back in the days when I only sent out text via e-mail to the members of the newsgroup I put together, I had this nearly visual feeling of a group out there - and I'd imagine people receiving my e-mail, clicking on it and then reading it as they scrolled down the page.  True - any one of them could have forwarded it on to someone else or copy-pasted the text into a new e-mail, etc., but still - it was a finite list and I imagined a finite number of people who read the newsletter.  And then I posted the first one on-line....

Stage One - Suddenly there was this strange feeling... who was reading it and who would read it in days, weeks and months ahead?  How many people would read it?  Where were these people? 

Stage Two - Without noticing exactly when the boundary was crossed, things just drifted out of that strange zone and into a state of normalness....

Stage Three - Right now.  A year and a half since the first posting, and now I sometimes find myself thinking "Is anyone going to read this?".

Stage Four - The future....  I have no idea!  Is there a Stage Four?  Or will it cycle back to Stage One?

It's a strange thing about writing - you have an idea, you try to put it into words and you hope that it's of some interest to someone. On one hand it seems sort of hit-or-miss, but sometimes an idea begs to be put on the screen and you don't really care what anyone thinks of it - the act of getting it written and posted seems like the whole task.  It had to be done and whether someone likes it or not isn't the issue.  This is exactly the type of thing that tends to be well-received....  On the other hand... when you do care what people think and you push a little hard in a direction that you want them to think... look out!  This a dangerous thing to do!  You have a momentary feeling of glee as you whack the Enter key at the end and click on Send.  "Go get 'em!" you silently think.  Then, the next day arrives and - with the new sun - an in-box full of angry/over-enthusiastic/disappointed/etc. letters.

Ah... the disappoint of it!  The very text you write with the most enthusiasm often dumps you into the lowest level of shame!  Full meaning sitting in the air and begging for form in words is another matter however!  This seems to be the key.  There are things that need to be said, so when you find them, give them voice and/or form!  If you just want to say something, go ahead and try, but not too enthusiastically and try to look for something real in the air to fit in between the lines.....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
The shortest way home is the longest way 'round....

Hello to my Good Friend Rui in Portugal!

Hello Rui!  See what I mean?  (Never mind you other readers - I'll explain later!)

The shortest way home is the longest way 'round....

Warm Yesterday, Cold Today, Warm Tomorrow?

The weather might as well be an analogy for other things... it's been more inconsistent than usual lately.....

The shortest way home is the longest way 'round....

"Another Side to Roppongi"

It feels a little odd how I ended up in Roppongi yet again last night. It's not a place I have spent much time in since my arrival here in Tokyo in 1984, but while the number of times I go there are few, those few visits always seem to be interesting (in both good and bad ways). There was my first visit there with a group I was staying with in 1984, when I met a woman in a disco that I was smitten with (but events ended the encounter in a complicated tangle of misunderstandings). And then there was the first visit there with a friend from LA after the yen has shot up in strength and Japan suddenly became a place to emigrate to... I still remember the shock of walking down the street and seeing foreigners here and there... everywhere! Never before in Japan had I been anywhere where locals didn't comprise at least 97% of the group in sight. I had grown used to the idea that foreigners here were - by definition - a radical minority. Thinking about that issue, I realize there is something to be said both for higher numbers (more familiarity with individuals from across the sea) and for lower numbers (the fun of always being unique, no fear of being overrun)... as well as something to be said against both (but never mind that aspect, let's stay positive with this).

What next... a short memory, like a video clip, of going to some noisy club with that same friend from LA and ending up talking with a local woman who suddenly (why?) told me "The moon landings were faked!" as she looked at me with fierce and "let's fight" fire in her eyes. I was so flabbergasted by the intensity of the toxin she was beaming at me and not having any idea what prompted it, that I was rendered speechless... (end of memory-video clip).

Then there is a memory of wandering through the area and sensing the atmosphere as I took pictures in the afternoon; then a job interview for the Stars & Stripes newspaper, at which I was told I would have to abandon my permanent residency visa if I was offered the job (why?!), followed by the melancholy walk down the street taking pictures... looking over to see what was to become the Roppongi Hills Tower under construction. That particular memory-video clip is longer than most - I remember nearly everything - from walking by the helicopter pad, to the interview itself, and the view of the large building under construction down the street, with the final scene being the entrance to the subway as I headed down.

Those are a few experiences, but spread over something like eighteen years, and then suddenly three in just a few months:

First there was the visit to the new place opened by a friend of a British pal (see "Ebisu & Roppongi":

- at which I missed the last train and ended up drinking several bottles of Guinness and talking with the English guy until the first train in the morning ("I've had enough of Roppongi to last a few years!" thought I, on the walk to Roppongi Station for that first train at 5:00 a.m.).

Then on February 3rd, there was the Ubuntu Linux meeting with Mark Shuttleworth in the Roppongi Hills Tower complex (at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo hotel) no less (see:
"Ubuntu Linux Round Table at Grand Hyatt Tokyo, Roppongi Hills Tower":

- something I didn't imagine when I saw the building under construction; and then finally last night....

I recently posted the first version of a website for a singer acquaintance (a friend of a friend), and she asked me if I could come by a club where she performed a Valentine's Day concert to talk about the design, etc. I had to work in Shinjuku until 21:30, but she said that she'd be singing until 22:00 and that she'd wait for me, so I took the Oedo Line subway from Shinjuku to Roppongi, marveling at how deep underground it is (as the most recent large-scale subway line, they had to put it under everything else) and felt annoyed at the extra walking time it took to get down to the platform (I very seldom use the Oedo Line). After over 21 years of marching up and down subway stairs, I've gotten used to it taking a certain amount of time, so when that time is tripled, it's quite irritating somehow (they should try running the escalators at higher speed I think)....

On the train, I looked around and thought how different it felt from the other subways in Tokyo, so I looked and listened for the causes, which seemed to be that (combination of on-the-spot perception and previous technical knowledge about that line): it uses linear-motors (although it's not a maglev - it runs on steel wheels on rails); it's smaller (to accommodates the smaller diameter tunnels running deep underground); it's running closer to the floor of the tunnel (with smaller wheels, part of the reason for the linear motor design apparently); the sounds of the train in the tunnel are a bit different; and the feeling of acceleration is different in a way that's hard to pin down (thanks to those linear motors no doubt, but also due to computer control?). Lastly, there is just some strange extra element - that feeling you have when you ride a subway in a foreign city; you look around and see the design is basically the same as what you're used to, but everything is a little bit skewed in a different direction, giving the experience a different personality.

Running a little late (it was a couple of minutes past ten as I stepped off the train at Roppongi Station), I hiked up the escalators to get to the top as soon as possible. As I hiked past people, I wondered why they were just patiently standing on the slow-moving stairs.., but by the time I had negotiated several long flights of escalators, I understood only-too-well why! Man, that thing is deep! It must be something like six or seven stories underground! (Come to think of it - it's got to be way below sea level... I wonder if the tunnel walls are holding back water seepage?)

Once past the mountain passes of escalators and breathlessly outside, I was able to figure out where the place was via several public maps located on boards at intersections - which is an excellent idea by the way! A huge thank you to whoever is responsible for getting those put up. While there have been maps put up here and there the whole time I've been here, there weren't that many and they weren't as detailed before.

I stopped in front of the building and looked up at the 2nd floor club, getting the about-to-enter-social-situation butterflies. I thought about how I looked ("Am I presentable?") and then climbed the stairs, asking myself why I felt nervous. Inside the place, I found the singer and eased through the typical transition phase from nervous to part-of-the-scene, and then moved on to worry-over-catching-the-last-train home. I took in the singer's requests regarding the site and when I left, as I was saying a last ten-second string of words at the door, she said "Get home!" after three seconds and slammed the door shut; her laughter through the closed door fading as she walked away from it. Since she's a tri-cultural person, I have no idea if that was a deliberate insult or just unintentional rudeness, but I walked to the station muttering a bit nevertheless. Since I was in danger of missing the last train though, she was probably just helping out, but still... "Bang! Ha-Ha-Ha". Hmmmm.......

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
Greetings from a cold and rainy day!

That's enough to see how this looks!

More later!