December 28, 2003
8:57 PM

Oh goodness, it's already 8:30 PM and I've done zero writing this weekend. I've spent the last 3 days eating candy/cookies/cake, drinking soda pop while others drank rum/vodka/whisky, driving all over the bay area, eating more candy/cookies/cake, seeing friends, being with new friends, and just enjoying myself quite a bit. I am drained right now. I think I'm going to curl up in bed and read a book. So, I'm going to leave you with a story. Here goes:

Where is the most magical place on earth. Disneyland?...Not even close. The place I'm talking about is Japan. For most people, when you think of Japan, you think sushi, wacky television, ninjas, Ichiro Suzuki, or Godzilla. And believe me....for some, it gets as ignorant as chow mein, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, and anything with slanted eyes. It's just one big happy mesh of Asian galore......Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, etc.. It's all the same eh? If you only knew!! Anyways, my first encounter with Japan came 5 years ago as I was asked to produce a record for a Japanese band. Though I had no idea how to produce a record, I convincingly said "YES!" and took the free trip to Japan. Since that first encounter I've gone back 10 times, including a 3 month stay in November of 2000.

I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on this country. I've learned a lot about the punk scene, the business side of things, and a bit of culture/language to boot. To properly write about Japan I'd have enough material to write a novel, so I'll focus on one particular. And that would be the ARCADES. Or FUN CENTERS. Everybody loves an arcade? Right? Hmmmm... In Japan there seems to be arcades everywhere. A short walk off of each train stop lands you in Arcade Land. Lights blasting, music blaring, and uniformed employees running about trying to please anyone who screams "SUMIMAAAASSSEN" when something is needed. A mix of business men, school kids, young couples, and your typical odds and ends fill up the arcades playing games that I have never seen in the U.S. Games that involve playing maraccas, traditional taiko drums, traditional folk string instruments, advanced dance games that blow the minds of everyone. It seems like Japanese kids don't get self conscious about themselves like we do in the states. They just do stuff and enjoy doing it. In the States, we're so concerned about what others think. Whether it's cool or not. I'm not excluding myself. I'm no Superman.. I'd be embarrassed to do half the stuff they do in Japan. Anyways, I'm getting off the topic. Sorry about that.

In the States, a popular arcade game is that stupid crane that goes over the stuffed animal, and you try to pick it up and win the prize. Never quite understood that one. Woohoo! I just spent $10 and now I won this little stuffed animal that I could buy at K-Mart for $5. The thrill of victory I guess. Well, in Japan I almost fell over when I saw a similiar game, but there were live LOBSTERS instead of stuffed animals that you were fishing out. And of course I ended up spending over $30 trying to win this. I had no idea what I would have done if I actually won. What the heck do you do with a live lobster in the middle TOKYO? Well, thankfully I lost everytime, but I came so close. The crane would grab the lobster, start heading towards the open hole and then that lobster would go crazy trying to get loose. It was an amazing sight. Perhaps too amazing, as I kept pumping coins to see it again and again.

Everything is gimicky over there. I think that's a word? Gimicky? I went to a Chuck E. Cheese type of restaurant, but it was very different. Let me explain...There were video games everywhere, but no pizza. Instead, you are in a giant boat surrounded by a moat stocked with fish. You grab a pole and fish. When you catch something, the staff comes running out at you like it's your birthday. And they're friggin screaming. Next, thing you know they've grabbed the fish you caught and 5 minutes later, that fish on your table still alive with the meat sashimi'd and ready to eat while he or she is still alive watching you. (I have pictures on the picture section)

NO!!!!!!!!! This wasn't happening. I'm freaking out at this point. I have no idea what's going on. I wasn't going to eat this. But I was a guest in a foreign country. I didn't want to offend them and believe me, I've offended tons of people without knowing it in the past. So I just smile big and say "Sorry, I don't eat meat." Argghhhh.....that was a weird experience. So there you have a little taste of Japan. I recommend going, if the opportunity arises. The people are great, the punk scene rules, and it's non-stop stimulation. Hope you enjoyed this little bit of writing. Hope you had a great weekend. Only working on Monday and Tuesday and then I'm off to texas to play some rock shows.

Peace always, Mike Park