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JAPAN ^^ Things I did today

  • Slept in. Oh man, that was nice.
  • Lunched at a beautiful hidden-away little sushi restaurant called Kizushi (been around for 300 years) with exceptional chefs and tiny dining ware — my water glass resembled a large shot glass — where we were presented with 15 different types of sushi, handed over one by one, with just the right amount of homemade wasabi
  • Went to a toothpick shop (also approximately 300 years old). Yes, a whole shop just for toothpicks. Royce had already made numerous purchases there, and ended up making another one today. I don’t question his judgment often, but seriously.
  • Visited a tea shop that has been around since 1690, plus a shop specialises in products from Mount Fuji, such as candied fruits and cherry blossom wine. Beautiful.
  • (The too-much-information post) Made an attempt at buying some, uh, feminine hygiene products because I, uh, needed some. And infuriatingly couldn’t find any tampons in the shop. So I had to purchase the equivalent, which I haven’t used since the age of 12, because, uh, uncomfortable. But I wasn’t about to play charades with the Japanese shop keepers to explain what I needed and why, though goodness that would have made for a hilarious comedy sketch.
  • Went to Kiddyland, which isn’t as creepy as it sounds. But as my host said upon entry, if you feel like you’re missing gallons of ‘cute’ in your life, then this is the place you want to go. Let’s just say there’s an entire floor dedicated to Snoopy paraphernalia. For serious.

    There's also a LEGO bathroom.

    There’s also a LEGO bathroom.

  • Wandered around the fashion district Hara Juku, where I fell in love with numerous outfits. I made a sorry attempt at trying on an adorable banana and strawberry shorts & shirt set and realised that my hips are too wide to fit into any clothing in this sizeist fucking industry.
  • Visited Condomania. No explanation needed.

    Yeah, baby.

    Yeah, baby.

  • Visited this expansive indoor food market Saibu with hundreds of different stands, including one that sold rather expensive fruit.

    Check out these $100 melons...

    Check out these $100 melons…

  • Enjoyed a fantastic picnic of pork tonkatsu, dumplings and octopus salad.
  • Tried 10 different kinds of ice cream: avocado, shark fin, salt of Okhotsk, wasabi, rose, cherry blossom, green tea, green tea with red bean, butternut, and eel. You know you’re jealous.
  • Attended a surreal theme park combo of zombies and happy kiddie stuff. Originally, the owners of the venue wanted to open a zombie theme park, but ran out of money while building, so other people bought them out and wanted to open a kiddie theme park, but ended up leaving in a lot of the zombie stuff. So as you wander around, you may see some scary-freaking-zombies, and then in the next room meet some adorable Hello Kitty type characters. For the messed up child in all of us.

    I'm not sure which part was more terrifying.

    I’m not sure which part was more terrifying.

Tomorrow we’re catching an early flight to Okinawa, so I may not be able to update until we’re back from the remote island. Sayonara!

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Tokyo's national holiday, apparently!

Tokyo’s national holiday, apparently!

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My associations with Japan prior to visiting Japan:

  • I’ve read all of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, some of which are set in Japan, though he lives in London. They are all wonderful, except perhaps The Unconsoled, which was a bit of a trial to read.
  • I once purchased a Japanese wood block print painting from a shop on Sussex Street in Ottawa. The woman who worked there also offered classes in Ikebana, which I had intended to try and never did.
  • I love sushi. My favourite type is eel, which I thought was called ‘unagi’ but the guide book I’m reading refers to it as ‘anago’. One friend of mine bought me sushi-making materials for my birthday, and I once made lots of different types of sushi for a Valentine’s Day date.
  • I watched a lot of Sailor Moon when I was younger. In fact, when we first discovered ‘the internet’, the first thing I wanted to do was look up pictures of the characters online and print them out on our colour printer. My favourite Sailor Scout was Sailor Mercury, because she had blue hair and she was super smart.
  • I’ve seen Princess Mononoke and My Neighbour Totoro. Recently I started watching, on recommendation from R, a series about a girl named Kino who travels the world on her talking bicycle.
  • My first lover had an African mother and Japanese father. He also had a modest collection of Japanese swords and a small scar across his right eyebrow from playing with them. I found him incredibly beautiful.
  • One of my favourite monologues in The Vagina Monologues is called ‘Say It (For the Japanese Comfort Women)’ about women sold into sexual slavery during the Second World War. These women, now in their 80s and 90s, demand an apology from the Japanese government for the horrors they endured.
  • I love haiku, and write many of my own, though they don’t always follow the thematic requirements of the classical Japanese haiku. Sometimes they even rhyme. I have made fridge magnets out of them; several of my friends have them on their fridges. I found out not too long ago that the plural of haiku is, in fact, ‘haiku’.

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I’m visiting Japan for 9 days to visit a friend of mine who is studying Noh Theatre there for a month. We’ll be staying in Tokyo and also visiting an island in Okinawa. Here are some of my stories…

 I boarded the first plane and walked straight to the back toward my selected window seat. There was a middle-aged Chinese man sitting in the spot next to mine, and when he saw me he smiled and said “I’ve been waiting for you!”

Once I settled myself in, we talked about our respective flights, and he told me he was traveling from New York, where he has lived for the past 30 years, to China for business. Why was he traveling through London, rather than crossing over the Pacific?

He had originally booked a flight to London for a holiday with his wife and two boys, but then he suddenly had to go to China for a business trip, which cut into the holiday. When he tried to alter the flight, the airline told him it would cost over $2000 US, so he found it cheaper to simply book a round-trip flight from London to China and back again. But this meant, for him, being in air transit for over 24 hours. What fun!

Despite his intense schedule, he seemed well-rested and cheery and we embarked, as strangers sometimes do, into polite topics of conversation such as the history slavery, the legal limits of abortion, same-sex marriage, matriarchal societies, the decline of the family unit, and human rights versus cultural traditions. It was comforting to realise that we shared a number of fundamental values, though we had come to them from very different perspectives and experiences.

I also asked him if he was a spy – since he seemed to do an awful lot of traveling for work – and he told me, no, he was an IT consultant. Growing up in communist China, a liberal arts degree wasn’t exactly encouraged, so he pursued the sciences instead. Though, he said, he’d be interested in seeing my show about Sappho when it plays in New York in a couple of months (…shameless plug).

I made the mistake of going out drinking the night before this flight, so I’ll admit I’m not exactly in the best shape to be enjoying a cramped 9 hour journey with a stopover in Beijing, and then another flight to my final destination. But I’m keeping my mind focused on my arrival in Tokyo, on devouring epic quantities of sushi, on exploring markets and temples and fashion districts, on cherry blossom season, on lush islands surrounded by ocean waves and whales, on on on, and and and…

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a café of one’s own

Paris continued…

Thanks to an ill-timed general strike in Spain (and yes, everything does revolve around me), I spent an extra two days in Paris, mostly on my own. My friend Amy was kind enough to share her intimate apartment with me for most of the week, but she was in the process of moving out, so I spent the remaining nights at the house of my other friend Mélissa and her lovely wife, Sarah. Their living environment is a sensualist’s dream: delicious food on the stove, bold black and white photographs on the sunset coloured walls, books and music records on the shelves, and two guinea pigs sunning themselves by the window.

One afternoon I spent alone in a nearby Parisian café. Just look at how lovely it is:

La Chambre Aux Oiseaux Café

La Chambre Aux Oiseaux Café

As I sat there I mused about wanting to find the ideal writing environment:

All I needed was to find a friendly looking café with Alice in Wonderland furniture and drink green tea with honey, eat buttered bread warmed by the light of the front window facing the street of gardened balconies. Remembering the freelance life: laptops in coffee shops, meeting for work dates, happily distracted by interjections from the regulars, ordering panini and staying for hours after I’ve finished eating.

Where is my life exactly? I still haven’t found that very special writing spot in my neighbourhood. Perhaps the café opposite the street from my work; lovely decor and a decent lunch platter, or just some tea. And on sunny days I’ll find myself some patio to read, lifting my eyes occasionally to flirt with passerbys.

Wondering how long I can camp out here. I am inconspicuous in this little corner.

Once in a while my mind slows down enough for me to write, write until my hand hurts and my fingers cramp, and my words are illegible. Thank goodness we do not live in a time in which handwriting is valued.

Being in Paris has made me realize that while I love company, I need these hours alone to write and reflect. I must not look at this time as boredom or limbo, but rather as a quick refreshment, my own version of a smoke break, a repose from a life that is and will continue to be full of people.

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The Hammam

Everything is blindingly hot. The walls drip steam as I lie on the smooth stone furnace looking upward, the ceiling glazed with a mosaic of rich colours and shapes. My eyes burn and I close them. Wearing nothing more than a bathing suit bottom, my back softened melts into the raised surface, sweated tears down my ribs, my thighs lose their muscle, my heart slows as my breathing mutes.

I love being touched. When it is my turn for a massage, I place myself face-up on the table, and I am surprised at how freely the woman’s hands run across my torso, over my breasts, rubbing them as she does every other part of my body. I remember sexual encounters I have had at which I wished that my partner would just touch me without fucking me. I feel safe in this moment realizing that I am only being touched, only being massaged, and that nothing else is going to happen.

This room is full of women, and they are so beautiful, I can’t help but stare. I am fascinated by the older women, their wrinkles, their posture, their changed breasts. I am fascinated by breasts in general. Observing the younger women, most of them slender and softened by the heat, I wonder if their bodies turn me on, or if I am only drawn to them aesthetically, as though they were living marble in a museum.

Outside the air is fresh, our hair is wet, and we have tea and pastries. We smile. We sigh. We breathe.

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Berlin

Kinder parks darkened

Imaginations enlightened

There, a sharp stool

There, a dull red bench

Slide straight and narrow

Empty, for lack of light

Echoes of children passed: we were here

we were here once

Kinder ghosts

A new type of chocolate

Wrapper left in the sand box

We were here

 

Paris

Blunt pencil shades

Rodin inspired ebony tits

Stone nipples rise

With the garden breeze

Fleshed heavy and heaving

Leaves no room for breathing

 

Barcelona

Spoiled bulldog whines

Fills the balcony with excrement

‘Bueno’ spits his owner

And throws him into the ocean

(True story)

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