I’m currently in Kanazawa. It’s pissing down with rain so there’s nothing to do but read my books and post online rants about what it’s like here.
I read Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. I am currently going through No Logo by Naomi Klein. Fight Club is a disturbing book, not because of the excessive violence, but because it speaks to a world of people who have inbuilt agression and have no way to exorcise it. It’s about men whose fathers abused them, or left them or just didn’t connect with them. It’s about our constant need to fill our lives with meaningless material possessions that we become tied to. About starting again. From scratch. Removing history and wiping the slate clean. I saw the movie first, and then read the book. I think both have their merits, some parts of the book were better, and the reinterpretation in the movie for some parts were really good.
I met a artist over here from California. She started painting after her breakup with her Australian husband a few years ago. She wasn’t classically trained in painting or art, and hadn’t painted until recently. She used her work as an expression of her anger. Her works sells quite well in a few galleries in the US, and as such she can take jaunts overseas (like to Japan.) It was suprising how much we had in common in terms of life experience, and how much was different. We had arranged to come to Kanazawa together, but in an episode reminiscient of Friends or Ally McBeal, we must have done the “Just missed each other” thing for about 4 hours in Takayama. Eventually I had to leave to get here, as I was going by the slowest, cheapest form of rail transport. I was supposed to meet her at her hotel by 10am. As usual I got lost trying to find it (and had to negotiate around the second day of Takayama festival.) But got there at 10:02am. The hotel owner said she’d meet me at a resturant near the station. Well, I waited for about 2 hours, wrote a note for the owner to pass on if she saw her. (Trying to explain things like this in Japanese was very hard, “Watashi no tomodachi no Amerika-jin no Heather Gordon san o imashita ka?” At least I got the tomodachi bit right, and didn’t call her my egg.)
Anyway, having missed her competely, and I don’t think she got my letter because she hasn’t caught up with me in Kanazawa yet, I guess I won’t see her again. Not everyone has access to their email remotely, and she wanted to go down to the island of Shikoku, which isn’t on my agenda (Kyushu island is.)
Two nights ago, I had dinner in a real Japanese Mama resturant. The sort of place where a middle aged Japanese woman provides food and drinks for about 5-10 Japanese business men, who don’t want to go home until late at night. It’s like she’s their second wife, mother and counsellor at the same time. One of the men (and it was only men) equated me with Ian Thorpe, which was kind of cute. The sake was really, really good and the food okay. But this sort of place is like a Japanese institution. They are very common, and very popular. The same men might be there 3 or 4 nights per week, every week. Like the salaryman in Tokyo falling asleep over his Ramen noodles, I just wanted to say “Go Home.”
Although Japan doesn’t seem as brand saturated as other places (perhaps because I don’t know the Japanese brands as well,) but it is evident. Coke, Nike and all the regulars are here but they have to fight for space with the established Japanese brands. Starbucks is the same, as is McDonalds and The Body Shop. Although they both have minor variations, they stick out like sore thumbs where ever they are. When I finish No Logo, I’ll try and interpret the Japanese condition in relation to the US and Australian market place.
I came across a bookstore/objects du art shop recently here. They had things for sale that in Australia we’d consider boring, ordinary items. But here, a 1 litre container of American Engine Oil was on sale for 1700 yen (AU$21). You don’t buy it to put into your car, you buy it to put onto your bookshelf and have it look cool. Just as in Australia we have those cutesy Japanese stores selling Hello Kitty fakes, and so on, here they have the same but selling Western things. Perhaps I should go and photograph it. Perhaps I should open a shop like it. Think of Gowings, or Remo, but the objects contained are treated as novelty objects of art. Taken out of context, and not used for their real purpose in life (making an engine run) but as items of art.
I have to go and wash some clothes in the dodgiest looking coin operated washing machine I’ve ever seen. Although it doesn’t help that I haven’t seen one like this before, so I’ve no idea how it worlks, yet.