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Sunday, August 27, 2006


The Japanese seem to be fascinated with two other cultures: France and America. American icons abound: 7-Eleven, Kinkos, even the microwave popcorn I was given today was an American brand (I forget the name now though). And in the fashionable areas of Ginza and Roppongi, if the words weren't Japanese they were French. I don't speak French either.

I am still having trouble finding free wi-fi and have resorted to roaming Akihabara with my laptop in my hand desperately trying to make a connection. This may be a metaphor, who's to say.

The humidity has dropped right off meaning that the 32 degree days are quite bearable.

I'm sitting in a "French cafe" in Akihabara writing this, sitting next to me is a pair of girls (late teens) who are waving a glowing Mickey Mouse wand. This is the other culture that enthralls Japan: the cult of Disney. We went to Disneyland and had a great time, but we are not as clinically obsessed as the Japanese are. At the park, even the cool hipsters were wearing Mickey ears (or in one case Minnie ears) without a shred of irony. And everyone was carrying souvenirs popcorn buckets, or light up wands, or just anything with Disney branding on it. At the end of the day before the park closed the stores were full of people just grabbing things off the shelves and throwing fistfuls of cash at the attendants, who piled it all in a big sack with a dollar sign on it (the money is later burned in front of Walt Disney's "blood throne" just before the virgin sacrifice).

I had a strange experience on the subway yesterday. I know this is supposed to be commonplace in Tokyo but it was still weird. A businessman, possibly in his late 40s, sat down between me and an old lady. He pulled out a manga (comic) and began to read. I glanced over and noticed that it was extremely explicit. He didn’t even care that he was sitting in a public place next to a woman who was old enough to be his mother! Weird, but that’s the fun of other cultures, being weirded out.

Finally, for now, I have noticed that it is really hard to tell what age Japanese people are. This is obviously some kind of anthropological thing, but it’s still strange. I asked Amy, “can you tell who is our age here?” She said, “it was the people in the Apple store”. Touche.

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