Once Upon a Time, I lived in Japan.

Here lies some of the smaller, and better posts that survived from my time in the Land of the Rising Sun (Fact: it’s called that because in the summer months, the sun rises at four in the morning. I shit you not.).

1. Dig for Fire.

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Here you see local farmers harvesting fire in order to sell off to the local Kundalini Yoga practitioners.

If there are two pieces of esoteric knowledge that I could share with you, it’s that:

  1. Japan will challenge your internal compass. And,
  2. Japan will seriously mess up your ability to process urban planning.

Example? Coming from the States as I did, I like to think I had a strong sense of compass directions. As the continental U.S. is a gigantic landmass, it’s not hard to figure out where North and South lie if you can figure out where East and West are. What if you started living on an island? Or more to the point, 6,000+ islands?

For the record, I have given up figuring out which direction I am facing when I am exploring this country.

Then, there’s urban planning.

Spoiler alert: there is no ‘urban planning’ as you would understand it. Streets do not follow the traditional grid structure that you would find in the Americas. And with a population that is as dense, how could they plan urban areas effectively? I’m sure that they do, just as I am sure that they have a system in place that works for them.

For the sake of argument, I live in the ‘countryside’. This is a bit of a misnomer because while you may think of farm houses and rolling hills when you think of the term “countryside”.

They do have that here.

But they also have major urban centers located within a mile of most farms. Take the picture above. 

I am pretty sure that they’re doing some form of composting. I’d ask but I am still a bit sensitive about being stared at like the white devil that I am. If it looks like shit and smells like shit, it will certainly burn like shit.

Which is also the only bad thing about living where I do.

2. Big Ten Inch Record.

I have never been a fan of zoos. 

Prior to living in Japan, I hadn’t given it that much thought. There could be any number of reasons.

Maybe I’m one of those bleeding hearts who believes that all animals should be free? Not likely. Aside from dealing with assholes such as myself, I’d have to say that those animals have it pretty good considering that their life expectancy is generally double in captivity.

Maybe I’m (subconsciously) ethically opposed to forking over cash for essentially going for a walk in the park? Closer, but not relevant.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m the only one who can see that, anytime you go to a zoo during peak business hours, the animals aren’t the ones who are on display.

The below pic was taken at Ueno Zoo. I only had to spend 6 USD (for myself), cheaper than any other zoo I could’ve gone to back in the states. The price of admission paid for itself when I pointed out (to at least two of my kids) that elephants only have four legs, not five. My kids and I got a good chuckle out of that.

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For the record, there were three female elephants on the other side of the pen trying to stay way from poor old Babar.

3. Dirty Laundry.

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As I am an American one of the first things that I noticed when I started exploring my urban environment was the aeration of clothing and linens.

As I am also a fan of airing things out, I didn’t think anything of it the first few times I saw it. The more I saw it, I noticed how intricate it could get. Fact: it is a standard that most new Japanese homes come with a clothing rack built into the house or yard.

Then, one day, my beautiful and intelligent wife to pointed out to me the size of most of the dwellings.The lightbulb went on over my head as soon as I was done doing the cultural mathematics.

To have something like a washer AND a dryer in Japan is a status symbol.

4. Bright Lights, Big City.

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Parks like these are to be plentiful in the Land of the Rising Sun. Of course you have to pay to get in (this one was only $2 USD). But as you can see, it’s worth the price of admission. With the general over-population of the Japan as a country, combined with tourism being the main money-maker at most city centers (Shinjuku, included), I’m sure the head honchos make a killing.

Conversely, having to pay for admittance also keeps the homeless out.

I’m not making some big statement about helping the poor. I’m just pointing out the contrast of entering a public park in Japan while it’s own less fortunate citizens have taken residence outside of the park gates.

5. Sound of Da Police?

Once upon a time, I was a green American, still getting used to living in Japan.

Then one day, my wife said, “You’re taking me to the Strawberry Festival”. After details and logistics were squared away, I learned that the festival was to be held in the warehouse district of central Yokohama.

SPOILER: it wasn’t really a ‘festival’ like most American’s think of festivals ala Lollapalooza. The Yokohama Strawberry Festival is a big ass tent that has food vendors (who sell strawberry themed confections) and almost the entire population of central Japan. It was my first experience with the phenomena of Japanese crowds. The strawberries were good though.

Never having gone to a ‘city’ in Japan yet, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. After embarking on a long ass train ride that was filled with what felt like an insane number of transfers, we had finally gotten to our destination.

I couldn’t have given less of a fuck about the strawberries. I had finally gotten to see what a Japanese city was like. Pretty. Fucking. Dope.

Crazy architecture!

The Bay of Yokohama (The first time I had seen a significant body of water since we had left the states)!

People sleeping on benches in the train stations because it’s easier/more affordable than turning on the heat during the day in the abode!

A man out of his vehicle, yelling at the cops (who were in their vehicle, behind him) who had pulled him over for some reason.

Wait: what?

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That’s right, what you’re looking at is a quick photo I managed of a Japanese man tearing the cops a new asshole and not being put in a choke hold for it.

In case you were wondering, yes: I completely felt like I was in a foreign country when I experienced this guy going after the cops as hard and as loud as he was (we heard him from a block away, before we saw him).

6. Blue Skies.

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Looks nice, doesn’t it? For the most part, this is what lower, central Japan, looks like during the winter.

This photo was taken during the first week of February. Hence the dead-ass trees in the background. Another clue that it’s winter, is that the soil is being worked, and no other growth.

Fun fact? this is right across the street from one of the school my children attend.

Want to know a fact that’s even more fun than that? It’s a little known fact about the environment of our current geographic location.

Japan, during the winter time, gets really damn windy. Like, mime walking against the wind (only you’re the mime, and the wind is real, not imaginary), windy. On windy days like that, do you think all of that nice, flat dirt stays put?

Fuck. No.

My entire neighborhood gets blanketed in a gentle brown courtesy of the ensuing Grapes of Wrath-style dust storm. That blue sky fades into that muddy color you used to get in art class when you thought it would be a great idea to mix all of the paints together. Children walking home from school resemble Bedouins by the time that they reach their domicile. Dogs and cats start sleeping together! MASS HYSTERIA!

The lesson? Just because it looks pretty doesn’t mean it won’t try to kill you.

7. Battle Goats!

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When we first arrived in Japan and everyone had gotten past the jet lag and the culture shock, my wife had mandated that we go and visit the local IKEA, as it was only a 15-minute drive away from our home.

When we were stateside, we were never a respectable distance from any of the IKEA stores that are presently peppering our country of origin. As my wife is a modern young woman, this proved to be a bit problematic when the other females within her social circle would wax ecstatic about the novelty of going to IKEA.

We went once when we were living in Cleveland, It was the mid 2000’s and she was pregnant with our second child. The closest IKEA was in Pennsylvania. To my knowledge, we weren’t going for something specific. We were more or less ‘going to go’.

So we got in my three door Saturn and ‘went’. 1.2 way there, the eldest child puked. On top of that we found a dining table and chairs that she really liked.

It was a cramped and smelly ride back home.

The Tachikawa IKEA is, indeed, 15 minutes from where we presently are living. AS it is a main attraction for the city, it is strategically located within walking distance of the city monorail and the JR (Japanese Railway). What connects the JR and IKEA is a big promenade. Next to the promenade is a field. In that field, the above-pictured, handsome assemblage of goats resides.

I all ready checked: there are no death metal bands in the area. And no, the goats don’t end up as food. Said goats are used for field maintenance only. Someone, somewhere decided that it was more economical and more bio-friendly to employ the goats rather than your average itinerant work (in this case, me). Whenever I see the goats, I am reminded of the time that I reconnected with a married couple that I have known since we were all kids, and not married.

They acquainted me with their goats.

It was also the first time I had ever seen a goat shit.

Upon spectating said act of expulsion, I said with all sincerity “Maaaan that kinda looks like the inside of a pomegranate, don’t it?” Because when a goat shits, it does, for a split-second look like it’s pushing the inside of said fruit out of it’s backside.

Strange how oddly placed things can remind you of home.

9. Heaven Help a SQRL That Gets in My Way.

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My biggest takeaway so far when it comes to living in foreign environs is that the greatest thing that you can do for yourself is to go a for a destination-less walk.
Local tourist attractions are great and all, but the real magic lies in the things that the locals might take for granted. Case in point? This picture of a modest squirrel. Why is this artistically touched up photo relevant, you might ask? Because my eldest child was quick to point out that the Land of the Rising Sun exists without any traditional squirrels. That is to say, she hasn’t seen a squirrel since we left america.
Me being the jerk that I am, occasionally I will message her that I have found a squirrel. When she takes the bait I send her this picture, every damn time.

10. I Like to Ride My Bicycle.

Regardless of the transient nature of my family, I didn’t actively get into photography until we came to Japan.

I’m not proud of this because there have been plenty of opportunities to photograph in Florida that I missed out on. If you get past the idiocy of some of the state’s inhabitants, there’s no prettier a place that Florida during winter time.

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With regard to the photo, on this particular day, it was colder than a well digger’s ass and I was exploring a different part of my neighborhood via bicycle. Prior to the photo, I had made a left turn down a random street in order to get off of the beaten path and away from the traffic.

This left turn put me within a cluster of homes, tripping on all of the unconventional architecture. I also learned in this cluster, that Japanese architects seemingly don’t plan neighborhoods so much as place houses. You’d be hard pressed to find 5 consecutive miles of straight road.

While I was in this cluster, I felt a pair of eyes on me. It was a woman, in her yard, looking at me, clearly amused by my presence.

In retrospect, I can’t blame her.

My bicycle was black, my helmet, which makes my enormous head, comically large, was also black. My outfit was completed with a thick, black hoody, and black nut hugger sweatpants. My shoes were also black.

I looked like I was trying out for a reboot of Beverly Hills Ninja.

I knew how silly I looked, so I smiled and waved because there was nothing else for me to do. For the record, she smiled and waved back as well.

11. Groovy Movies.

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If there is one thing that living in Japan has gifted me with, it is a renewed belief in the idea of reincarnation.

Trends, fashions, old ways of thinking, even people: everything old will become new again.

  • Trends? Music was at one point solely purchased on “records”.
  • Fashions? People used to work really hard in order to put the right kind of holes in their jeans? Now? They can get that shit at Target.
  • Old ways of thinking? People who look differently than you, act differently than you, live differently than you, are against the “Natural Order” of god’s will and should be punished. (FYI: I’m not down with that way of thinking. If you must know, as a rule, I believe that everyone is an asshole until they prove me wrong).

People? Yes, that one can seem a bit nebulous.

However, it is generally put “right” every time I look at my son, and am reminded of the fact that he is a smaller, better, but not as good looking version of myself.

12. Independence Day.

Feast your eyes on what a fireworks display looks like in Japan. Granted, this was on American Government property. It looks like any damn fireworks show.

Yes, I’m one of those troglodytes who can go to a fireworks show like the one that you see below, sit quietly and patiently, absorbing the ink black sky being punctuated by man made star bursts, and still remain positively dead inside.

Fireworks just don’t do it for me. If there was some overall point, like someone issuing a proposal for marriage using strategically placed roman candles, or if there was a skeet shooting competition where the rifles were replaced with bottle rockets, then my interest might be peaked.

So, why am I showing you this side of me? Why did I go to a fourth of July celebration at all this year? For the same reason a husband/father does anything: my wife told me to, and she told me that I had to take the kids.

While I was loathe to participate, this matrimonial decree was not worth eschewing.

So, I took the kids, fought through the sweaty masses and accomplished my betrothed’s polite request. Not for nothing, it was nice watching my kid’s face’s light up.

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13. I’m Going to Get More Shine in a Little Bit.

What you see above is a bona-fide rat-tail. Yes, it is on a minor. Yes, the child in question is not mine. And yes, there are a few points that I would like to notate for the record.

  1. The photo was captured around 2016. Which means that it’s sat in a draft-state in my queue for two years. Take this point for what it’s worth: maybe my thoughts on this specimen needed to mature?
  2. The photo was taken in Japan. Yes, it was taken in a school in Japan. However, in Japan, you do not need expressed consent if the person is recognizable. Yes, this person is recognizable to a degree. In the event that I should be contacted by them, or someone affiliated with them, I will gladly remove this post.
  3. This is an appreciation post.

The rat-tail owner and his parents should be applauded. Back in my day (yes, I am old enough to type that and be justified in doing so), should anyone of had a hairstyle that was unique in anyway, they would have been verbally fricassed.

In today’s world, where individuality is a tight rope walk that teeters between applause and damnation, expressing yourself in any physical way is an act of courage.

I see you 20th century hairstyle child. Nice work.