Saturday, November 06, 2004

As of late (as of the election) I have been sorrowful, as probably noticed in previous posts, and casting about for a way out of all the despair. I'd already been aching to dance for the past two months, but didn't know anywhere to go around here (other than to take the train into Tokyo and look for a good place there). So last night in a moment of spontaneity, I called a guy who was hired by the same company that brought me here and asked if he knew any places. He directed me to a place in Tsuchira City, just fifteen/twenty minutes away, called Orbit. So I went. By myself. I don't think I've ever gone to a dance club (where I wasn't already a regular) by myself, but times are rough and I'm in Japan so I did it.

How to begin describing the evening is difficult. First of all, it was a Japanese Hip Hop club. Second of all, I was the only foreigner there. Yeahhh, great start.

So I walked in and am immediately assaulted by bouncers who speak Japanese I've never heard of and suddenly I'm back to grunting and making hand gestures. We figure out the cover charge and then I'm given a body search (they knew those words in English). Then I'm let inside.

Inside is a fucking MTV video. I am not joking. Even now, hours and hours later, I am caught between a feeling of, Oh my god, this is so damned artificial, and oh my god, this is so damned cool. The place was packed, and all the Japanese were dressed like Hip Hop people from television (not like actual real life Hip Hop people on the streets). They are blinging it and all the girls have those little J-LO white fuzzy caps she made famous, and tight pants cinched tight at the waist or else baggy camoflauge pants, midriff tube shirts, all of them basically, and lots of huge gold hoop earrings. I think the only exception was one Japanese woman who wore like a piece of black and blue stretchy material from her breasts now to her upper thighs and had a wicked choppy haircut, but you could tell there was something different about her. She was the one the guys all danced with and the girls sort of smiled fakely at. The guys had the requisite long ass basketball jerseys and polo shirts and baggie jeans, etc. Lots of skull caps and baseball caps turned sideways. Lots of NY Yankees caps. Everyone was pretty immaculately sculpted to look Hip Hop.

I wasn't. I was pretty much just wearing a pair of jeans and a black and gray jersey from the Gap I got probably two years ago (which I still like obviously). So um, I didn't fit in even with my clothes.

So I positioned myself at the bar, which was tended by the cutest damned Japanese girl with dreadlocks and really smart looking square blackframed glasses. She just wore a sweatshirt and jeans, and I still think she was the hottest girl there, even though she wasn't all done up. Dreadlocks are strangely attractive on a Japanese woman, especially when she contrasts them with the Indie Rock square black framed glasses. I could tell she was probably a cut above the trendies.

After about an hour of watching and sort of bobbing around, this guy comes over to me and asks me (in Japanese) if I can talk in Japanese. I tell him I can a little. We exchange names. He's Naoki. These are his friends sort of hiding shyly behind him, Tomo and Kento. They're commercial artists. (Leave it to artist types to befriend a lonely foreigner) in an all Japanese hangout. They've come with a young friend of theirs from their workplace, a nineteen year old girl who is a regular at Orbit. So Naoki buys me a drink, then I buy him one, I learn how to say "black person" in Japanese (because they are all calling each other black people whenever they do a good dance move, I think like saying "you're so ghetto" maybe) and though our conversation is limited we talk for about an hour and then hit the dance floor itself.

What a relief. I was afraid to go out into that space by myself for fear there'd be an uprising, but having an actual Japanese person who's befriended you makes things much easier. It gives everyone else the message that you've been checked out by another member of the family and are cool. So I did my little dance and heard lots of people saying, "Sugoi! Jozu!" Oh look, incredible, he's good. At one point this girl and I were trading J-LO moves. I can do an incredible hand to face move if I do say so myself, and if this chick didn't have the damned J-Lo outfit on, I would have beat her, damn it! Instead I still think she one-upped me, just cause she had the whole J-LO look going too.

I didn't dance quite the same as them. They dance like they were all trying out for a Missy Elliot video. That's not the Hip Hop dancing I learned. I learned at clubs in Youngstown, which isn't as "choreographed". At one point in the night, they had a stage show of regulars who did group dances. It was really incredible stuff, because here these people had put together amazingly difficult routines in groups (so Japanese, no individuals on their own here) and this isn't like a job, this is the thing they do to blow off steam and have fun, but it's so damned worked at and crafted. If they need Asian dancers for Hip Hop videos, damn, come over here. They can do it and don't even have the training. Somehow they've managed to train themselves.

Because really, there is not a large black population here, so the subculture they're imitating hasn't brought this to Japan. It's been brought by television and movies and music. There is something just a little bit off in the Hip Hop culture here. All the moves are professional, all the clothes cut too well, and when they dance, it's got an air of gentleness to it, whereas in Hip Hop clubs back home, you sometimes think the dancers are angry or might break out into a fight by the serious looks on their faces. I like both styles, though. And man can these Japanese DJs spin. I'm not sure I've heard finer mixes in the states. I mean, really.

It was a long night. I finally decided to leave because it felt like I'd been there forever, but you know, people were still there, dancing, the bar was still serving. I'm not usually out before a place closes. Usually the places closes and has to chase me out. So it was a weird feeling to choose to leave before a dance club closed. On my way out, two door girls made me stop before I left so they could give me the schedule for the rest of November, and that made me feel good because it made me feel welcome to come back.

When I got outside and looked at my cell phone, I saw it was 4:30 in the morning and sort of gasped and felt like I'd just been stolen away by fairies into the underside of a hill for many hours. I guess it's true. Japanese clubs don't close until the people have decided the party's over. Sugoi!

And I am happy because I've finally found a place to get my freak on.

(Oh, and a side note: I got a note this morning from Pindeldyboz, saying they're going to publish my short story, "The Other Angelas", so even more yay!)


Blogger elad said...

Wow. Great descriptions, Chris. I could totally see all that, especially you getting your "freak on." I'm sure the Japanese were shocked to see just how crazy white Ohio farmboys can get. Yo.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

This is the most interesting thing I've read on the web today. Really fascinating.

1:17 PM  

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