Daniel in Japaniel

Hello Kitty has no mouth

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The ratio of dancing to sleeping this weekend would be about 2:1.  The ABS program was kind enough to bestow a “Free Weekend” to us. Needless to say, every moment was spent.

More about that in a second.

So yes, “academic” life… or rather just my schedule has been pretty packed lately. This week is another one of those. With preparing for Vietnam, a handful of papers to write, and keeping up with TAing, my last full week in Kyoto will be slightly difficult. Already, I am thinking about this weekend: farewell party, Halloween party at work, and maybe a night at a club with some friends. There are some gems to look forward to in this week though- though I don’t know them yet.

Okay, so Friday I finished up my class, my favorite class (actually) to TA. We go through the 9 pronunciations that “A” has… that I can’t even distinguish. Throughout it answering question “What is the difference between a tortoise and turtle?”, comparing our various electronic dictionaries, singing conversations, teaching phrases like “What are friends for?”, “You’re a natural!” and “Oh Heavens!” while I explain the ones I use “Too soon?”, “jk rowling”, and “weenis” (none of which translate well). After class I try and get some of the students to come out with me for the weekend, but, like many college students here, most of them are working at their part time jobs.

So after hanging out at Fukakusa campus for a little bit, headed home on the free shuttle to meet up with Julian. He, Dan and I headed North by way of the river to have a few drinks and eat diner Chinese food- waiting for a DJ circle to begin at a little club called Voodoo.

Kyoto University students were hosting this little event in an alley club just South of Shijo-dori. As soon as we made it downstairs, Julian goes “isn’t that…” and suddenly fellow ABS students were rushing us. Out of all the clubs in the area, we manage to run into each other. Go figure, Kyoto is pretty small.

They left a little early, just before DJ Bubble danced around with a fifth of Jack Daniels in one hand and a silver platter of shots in the other. Respect gained- we hung around for his set. Which actually was pretty good. As usual, there were many wall flowers or knee bouncing dancers. Julian and I cleared the floor (for better or worse).

Just as a note… or rather to build up the theme of this post, at one point in the night a guy started booty dancing with Julian. After a little bit, Julian asks curiously “are you gay?” The guy immediately stopped dancing, put his forearms in an X and went “oh No Noooo, iiieee,” and then paused for a second and asked “are you gay?” “Yeah, I am gay” Julian responded, “are you gay?” And after looking around the little club, the Japanese man leans into Julian and says “no, but I am bisexual… so I don’t hate you”

Not the first Julian’s had such a strong reaction, but certainly up there as odd. It’s right up there with “Gay Parade? Is that like boxing?”

Now it is easy to throw this in the steriotypes of “Shame Culture” or the “Sexually Repressed”. And, yes, quite often Japan is described as socially stuck in the 20s and 30s. But of course these generalizations are made to deal with these realities a little easier. A term is easier to control than a man telling you he doesn’t “hate” you.

At one point during this weekend, at a “famous” Gay Club in Osaka Julian turned to me and said, “you realize you are taking part in underground culture right now.” Looking around, at the disparity between hidden salary men in the corner, solo-act-drags lip syncing as well as Tokyo citizens in Godzilla movies, and Europeans visiting the scene, it’s a startling experience what you really are doing.

For me, Club Explosion! was like any other club. Aside from some grinding couples, dancing was relatively tame and asexual. There was the worse drag I’ve ever seen. And some of the most bizarre:

She starting bleeding from the mouth at around 3 in the morning on the stage, during a set of variety acts including: Mario interpretive dance, corny magic tricks, and some other scenes.

This was our Saturday night in Osaka. The preamble to the Kansai Rainbow Parade on Sunday.

Earlier we met up with Aki, Momoko and Dylan in Amemura. Friends from Fukakusa campus, I spend a good portion of my week hanging out with them.

Dylan, obviously not Japanese, is an Australia studying at Ryukoku right now. Momoko, the reverse. is Japanese, trying to study how to be an Australian. Aki lived in America for awhile and knows what’s up.

Unfortunately they couldn’t stay out with us for the night. We shared a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon at Junk Cafe, wandered around to an Arcade where we had a fantastic experience of Puri-Kura (photo booths on acid).

After blasting away some zombies with Momoko (who is a pro, by the way), we parted ways, and Julian prepared the redbulls for the night, not after seeing a monkey the size of nothing, though.

By the end of the night, we found ourselves on a local train to Kyoto. Not Kyoto-eki, it would turn out. The hour and ten ride brought us a forty minute walk from home. Luckily an ivory taxi was idling for us, we got back… slept- woke at 11 and returned to Osaka.

There we met up with Osakan and  co-worker Sachi (pictured below)

She works 3 three jobs  (mine, a restaurant job at Kobe, and a translating gig) and only gets sunday off. In anticipation of Vietnam, we went to a restaurant by her translating job. Unlike Vietnamese restaurants back at Baltimore, the place was covered with Vietnamese art and knick-knacks. There were no quacking ducks heard from the kitchen.

The Japanese influence was subtle but there. Flavors and ingredients popular in Japan were exaggerated a little more (seen mostly in the desert menu, where , while stronger tastes like Nuoc Mam were made less fishy and more miso base. Pickled raddish and carrots still had their vinegar crispness, but they were cut in heart and star shapes (so Japanese) instead of strips. Also, like Shojin ryori, the entrees were separated into small dishes, so you could personally make them. Being able to make your own bowl of Bun Cha Goi, added the homely touch this nostalgic adventure was seeking.

We picked up the reasonable check, and made our way to the Kansai Rainbow Parade.

I am debating how to really begin this. So, let me present it the same way they do- here is a quote from the literature for the event:

Ojective of the parade

More and more sexual minority issues have been recently featured on mass media in Japan. The population of sexual minority people is estimated to be approximately a few percent to five percent in every society. This means you probably have one sexual-minority classmate out of thirty in a school class. Most people, however, rarely think a relative or friend of them may be sexual minority.

In this parade, sexual minority people and their allies proudly walk in downtown Osaka. We sincerely hope that the parade will help all people to realize that sexual minority people are here. And we also hope that our society will become more and more open one enough to respect sexual diversity.

Caution

There is possibility that your photo is taken during the parade(*). When you do not want to be on the photo, go to the pictures-prohibited zone. However, it is not always guaranteed that you never be on the photo even if you are in the picture-prohibited zone. Take protective measures, such as wearing sunglasses or caps if you want surely not to be shot.

Meaning of the rainbow

…Not only the rainbow flag uses multi colors but also the Olympic flag consists of five colors, which represent diversity and equality of races in the world. Same can be said for the rainbow flag; each of us have diverse sexualities including diverse sexual orientations or gender identities just like a six-color rainbow. We hope that our “Rainbow Parade” help all people to respect the diversity and try to live together.

Now before arriving, we joked about our low expectations. I had imagined about 20 people, 18 of which Euro/Aussie, while the other two, Businessmen hidden behind spread newspapers. What we found was a modest 1,200. Obviously no New York or Amesterdan numbers at this parade.

Still it was a powerful experience. Everyone was polite and, aside from the float blasting dance music, people peacefull marched alongside of streets lined with confused bystanders. The parade was so polite, in fact, we even stopped at traffic lights!

However, despite whatever my Western perspective depreciates this experience, you couldn’t deny that this parade was as effectual to the Osaka bystanders as one in San Francisco. Again, we felt part of a grass-roots counter culture moment. Children cocked their heads, while mena dn women watched from buisness windows at the cosplay and drag dressed participants.

If you frame by frame the video, you can see the variety of just confusion. From my short time here, seeing the reactions in general about gender concepts, I can say that a sight like this parade was a voice that Gay culture rarely ever gets here.

The Kansai Rainbow parade met up to its objective.

At the end of the two hour parade, we convened at no Central Park, instead this dingy children’s park between two department stores.

There a brass band played a final song, while everyone picked up balloons. A count-down led to the loudest everyone got all day. The energy of the march was put into that one moment where everyone shouted in support and let go.

There was a follow up party at Club Explosion, but we ended up savoring the moment at the harbor view in Osakako

We then hit up an Izakaya (cheap beers and tapas) by Umeda station, laughing and relaxing after the day.

As failure would have it, getting on the wrong train the other night left us with a free return trip home from Osaka (one less expenditure). So with forty yen in my pocket- Julian and I got back from the weekend at around midnight.

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Written by Daniel

October 20, 2008 at 4:10 am

Posted in event, food, wandering

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