madness in the metropolis 

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Electraglide 2001

Phew - busy busy busy. There's been a lot going on this week, and as usual my attempts to write most of it down have run into difficulties. I blame Dan for encouraging me to go out boozing most nights this week. Design Festa write-up coming soonish, I swear - and the rest. Sheesh.

But anyway, just a quickie to say that tonight we're off to Makuhari Messe (out towards Chiba) for Electraglide, a mini-festival of assorted techno, held in an aircraft hangar-sized exhibition hall. Last year the line-up was Orbital, Underworld, Two Lone Swordsmen and Richie Hawtin, and I seriously damaged my knees by bouncing around on the concrete floor all night. Ow. Give me the sprung wooden dancefloor of the Liquid Room any night - but anyway.

This year we've got FatBoy Slim (rude not to, really), Aphex Twin (caught his full-on drill'n'bass set at Fuji last year, massively looking forward to more of the same - Dan is an apprehensive Aphex virgin... god help him...), Laurent Garnier (Monsieur French techno), Plaid (Scots techno guys on Warp), Mouse on Mars (eclectic German techno melange) and a couple of others. It all runs on until 7am - I can see Saturday being rather... relaxed.

Posted by chris at 05:43 PM | Permalink


It's a real pity the acronym SAE has already been taken by those selfish postal guys, as it's perfect for describing the default conversation mode of the young Japanese female. SAE - Single Adjective Exclamation. Actually, it's a very pure method of communication. Involving either pointing or waving-hands-palms-forward-by-the-face-elbows-fully-bent, the staple SAE is "Kawaii!" (Cute!), followed closely by "Kirayi!" (Beautiful) and "Sugoi!" (Awesome!); however, normal as these are, they are only the tip of the iceberg, as the SAE can extend as far afield as Big!, Frightening!, Blue!, Painful! and no doubt every other short adjective in the language.

How awful it must be. Confronted with a gigantic and majestic ancient religious artifact, or a breathtaking panoramic sea vista, thousands of conflicting emotions must well up and vie with each other, until finally, confused, tumultuous but utterly stimulated and excited, you've just got to say something... Kirayi! No... that's not enough... wait... Kirayi kirayi!!! (copyright random girls looking at Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo by night 2001)

Posted by dan at 01:42 PM | Permalink

Strolling back to the flat

Strolling back to the flat today, I saw a man (at work) in a suit standing behind a desk. So what? He was in a car mechanics' workshop. In a suit. Unbelievable. I don't fancy his dry-cleaning bill.

Posted by dan at 06:08 PM | Permalink

For those of you who

For those of you who only know Chris by his web presence, it is my duty to inform you that he is as witty in the flesh as he is in print. Strolling through Kabukicho, we were accosted, not unusually, by a dirty old man. "You want Japanese sex?" he cried. Quick as you like, Chris replied "With you? No thanks." at which point his cronies all start falling about laughing. Witty, yes, although I must say I was half expecting a yakuza shuriken to burst out of the front of my chest as I wandered away, chuckling.

Posted by dan at 03:41 PM | Permalink

Politically correct jargon watch

Politically correct jargon watch: "extrajudicial killings". What a nice, sanitized way of putting it. Presumably we can't use words like "illegal" or "murder" because it's our allies doing the killing. What a mess.

Posted by chris at 10:43 AM | Permalink

After the Cavern Club, we

After the Cavern Club, we went on to a nooomeeeejaaaaa bar, where we met a great bloke called Terry. I'm sure Chris will tell you all about him.

I came to Tokyo for a multi-cultural experience, but as yet I have very little experience of anything other than its bars, pubs, clubs, restaurants and supermarkets. This is a terrible thing, and all Chris's fault. Left to my own devices, I am an abstemious person, as innocent as a baby and jaw-droppingly naive. In this club the other night, some folks we met asked us if we wanted anything. This is not the naive part, as I knew what this meant (actually, the Tokyo bartenders keep asking if we want "something" - one chap made a complete mockery of the term "euphemism" - "Here's your tequila sunrise. Can I get you anything else, something more, something a bit different, something a bit stronger, perhaps, you look like you'd like some, if you ever need something I'm your man, oh yes, just say the word... (cont. p. 94)")

In any case, we politely declined (natch. Apart from the obvious moral wrongness of such extra-curricular activity, the words "arrested and deported" just aren't really me, you know?) Nevertheless, Chris observed pointedly, they almost certainly were on something. In no more than the time it takes for a swathe of brain cells to wither and die, however, for some bizarre reason the possibility that they were all high as kites had taken its leave of me, and I proceeded to come across as a person almost literally born yesterday.

"Drink? What'll you have?" " I don't like to mix" "Okaay... so what did you have first?" "Pardon?" "To drink?" "What? Oh. *Sigh* Rum and coke then"

"That ___, she wasn't really dancing at all at the beginning, but she's really getting into it now, isn't she?"

"Chris, man, is that ___ a bit of a psycho? She keeps grinning and gurning at me like she's deranged, like she's going to murder me or something."

"Wow, I'm knackered. You've been on the dancefloor twice as long as me - you must be whacked."

Stupidly pure? Or purely stupid?

Posted by dan at 05:33 PM | Permalink


Addendum: Ringo is Japanese for "apple".

Posted by chris at 04:22 PM | Permalink

All you need is rub

That was very funny, actually. We spotted the photo of the band outside, and the first thing we both thought was "How come there are *five* of them? Which one is Stuart?" They were pretty good, though - although, yes, some of the lyrics were largely indistinct. It's a guaranteed source of cheap laughs, Japanese bands doing English-language songs - the night reminded me of a Japanese girl I saw doing a live act in a soul club in Omiya once, who I could have sworn was singing "killing me salty with his words", which I doubt was quite what Roberta Flack had in mind. Death by condiments? Aaaaanyway.

All in all it was great fun and they really rocked, but they weren't as good as a group I saw a couple of years ago in Koshigaya, who were note-perfect, enunciated perfectly and sounded exactly like their respective idols. Dan's right about the drummer, though; a very accurate portrayal - unlike the Koshigaya Ringo, who was far too professional to be totally convincing.

Posted by chris at 04:18 PM | Permalink

That certainly was a good

That certainly was a good thing for all the little Japanese boys, anyway. The bar Chris refers to, however, was no ordinary "bar". Oh no. Rub, rub me do; She's got a chick-eh to lie; See - how - dey - lun! All are available at the Cavern Club, Roppongi, courtesy of Wishing, a five-man Beatles tribute band with a keyboardist and a drummer who, in tribute to Ringo (Lingo?), has no doubt deliberately not learned how to play. On learning we were English, our Japanese tablemates started in on us. "Are you from Liverpool???" "No." "Have you been to Beatles museums?" "No." "I am chief sub-vice President of Japanese Beatles Fan Club, South-East Tokyo Division. Are you Beatles fan?" "Er...yes?" That piece of quick-thinking dishonesty at least meant we got out alive - after the karaoke "Imagine", of course.

Posted by dan at 03:26 PM | Permalink

Forgive me, farther (longer, harder, etc.)

One of the bars Daniel and I found ourselves in over the weekend seemed to have some kind of quota system in place for members of the clergy - witness the sign on the door explaining their cover charge system: "One drink required per parson". Good thing I didn't do what I usually do and pretend Dan was the Bishop of Durham.

Posted by chris at 03:16 PM | Permalink

At university, there was an

At university, there was an ongoing game we used to play. The sole objective was to get ourselves into as many Japanese tourists' photographs as possible - in the background normally, but sometimes the opportunity arose to crash the photo altogether. Ludicrous poses ("Thinker" a favourite, or deeply studying a book) were non-mandatory but preferable. Suffice to say, I've shot into the lead.

Posted by dan at 02:20 PM | Permalink

Foaming at the mouth

Take the Affliction Test Today!

Posted by chris at 02:33 AM | Permalink

The kanji for carburettor

"He doesn't suffer fools gladly...Well who does?" "Hello I'm a fool!" "Come in! Come in, you crazy fool!" "And this is my friend, he's got Jam for brains." "Whooo hooo? Ooo hoo hooo hoo oooo!" "Come in!" Ahem. Anyway, yes, actually I probably used to suffer fools rather more gladly than I do now.

People who send me requests for kanji ("Please send me the character for computer hacker - thanx") used to get polite rebuttals. I don't mind looking up and mailing people the kanji for individual Japanese words, as long as they tell me the Japanese word they want. It's all very well asking me for the kanji for "chaos", but do you mean konran or ranma? So I put a disclaimer on the site, asking people to research their own translations using other more suitable means... and still they come. "Please send me the kanji for 'The Four Musketeers'." "Please send me the kanji for illiterate so I can tattoo it onto my forehead." For christ's sake - read the disclaimer.

So now I have a standard polite rebuttal e-mail which I ping back to the ones who fail to RTFM - until I got one the other day which read simply, "monk". Three deep breaths, resist the urge to scream at the keyboard... at least he got instant attention, as opposed to having to wait a couple of weeks while I got around to him. My instant reply?


I think I may be about to lose it. Bigtime.

Posted by chris at 11:32 AM | Permalink

There is an advert around

There is an advert around the place for some PC game with the entirely humourless strapline "Typing the Psychogun". So when we caught an arcade game called "Typing of the Dead" out of the corner of our eyes, this evening, we thought little of it. Typical Japlish? Not so. This is the new incarnation of "House of the Dead" (a standard shoot-the-ghouls arcade game) - except that where the guns should be, forlornly rest two very plain and dirty keyboards. Intrigued, we played. Up jump the undead. Rrrargh! Each wearing... a word. A Japanese word, in English script. KAZANA-SEIKOJI might trip off the fingers of a Japanese copy-typist, but not mine. In any case, you type it, they die (again). Crazy, sure, but a bit too much like early learning spelling games to be fun... but wait! The cut-scene hoves into view. Your characters lean and crouch over a grateful rescued civilian, in typical cool and besuited fashion. Instead of wielding guns, however, they carry firm slung perpendicular keyboards, Stephen-Hawking-stylee, along with Ghostbusters-like backpacks for good measure.

Your turn beckons. POSAJIMURUI!. Hahahaha.

Posted by dan at 03:18 AM | Permalink

At least 2000 words

I sincerely doubt that I'll be any good at this blogging business. In general, I'm kinda long-winded. Keats could see a falling leaf, and suddenly rush off to write a sensational fourteener. I see a falling leaf and can't contain myself for at least 2000 words. Same inspiration, different sorts of execution. (If you ask me, it was all that rubbish prose Keats kept bottled up inside him that killed him so young. It's all very well distilling brilliance out of your incoherent gibberish thoughts, but if all you ultimately produce is the pure essence where does all the rubbish go? Answer - nowhere. It lies around inside you, clogging your arteries like a caramel quiche buttie).

So it's decided. It's healthy to blog. Soon, my longer contributions to the field of English literature will appear in the "tales" section of this site, for everyone to freely ignore. This area will be reserved for shorter, more gnomic utterances, hopefully enigmatic and curt enough to conceal the arrant imbecility that will have spawned them. Here's one now.

Japan seems a lot like what America would be like now if rock and roll (and by extension, to be socially narrow-minded, the attitudinal rock revolution) had never happened - or, more precisely, if it had happened, just to someone else a long way away and in a completely incomprehensible language. Unfortunately, now I have thought this, my experiences around the place feel rather silly, a bit like finding yourself in one of those deeply implausible alternate-future novels or movies where the Nazis won WW2 or some such nonsense.

Posted by dan at 03:05 PM | Permalink

As I write, my host

As I write, my host is watching the late night Japanese TV he blogs about so often - all talentless talent shows, elaborate adverts involving people with animal body parts and bad cartoons. "You've been here a week, drinking my sake and sleeping on my cold, hard, inhospitable floor", he says. "You haven't tidied the flat; at least have the common courtesy to fulfil your other promise and post on the blog." Hello. My name is Daniel. I'm a reader of Tokyo Tales just like you. (That's not too presumptuous is it? We only just met, after all). I won the Tokyo Tales competition several months ago and now I've used the free plane ticket Chris provided. I've come to provide this blog with the one thing it has so desperately needed. Perspective. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

Posted by dan at 01:59 AM | Permalink

on the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy

And you thought it was just a game?

Posted by chris at 11:50 AM | Permalink

Daniel is travelling tonight on a plane

Well bugger that for a game involving little green plastic figurines frozen into about-to-throw-a-grenade postures. Blogger's invite function ain't working, so you are denied the pleasure of my houseguest's trenchant observations on the marvel of modern Tokyo.

Time to explain what the hell's going on. Daniel, an old buddy from school (since I was... 13?) is staying on my floor for a little while... a month, actually. He has the luxury of being able to work from home... i.e., my home. We were hoping, oh yes, hoping that I'd be able to invite him onto the Tokyo Tales blog... but sadly not. Damn thing appears to be bust. I'll try and knock up a parallel blog page for him at some point over the next couple of days... hang on for much dual-blog, twin-cam action.

Right now, though, we have to get the hell out of the flat and restore our circadian rhythms. Remind me to tell you about our fortuitous discovery last night... I said, our FOURtuitous discovery... and when you find out just how weak that pun was, you'll hate me for it.

Posted by chris at 02:52 PM | Permalink

Mid-Tokyo updated

Mid-Tokyo has had a couple of updates since last I mentioned it - more flash movie goodness, historical photos, maps, documents and the rest of it, all nicely charting Tokyo's recent history. Recent updates have included the post-WWII firebombing recovery project and the "aftermath" of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Posted by chris at 05:58 PM | Permalink

I am C.H.R.I.S.

I am C.H.R.I.S.: Cybernetic Humanoid Responsible for Infiltration and Sabotage. Finally, an alias generator that gets it absolutely right - my dark secret is out. I wonder how hard it would be to build an all-in-one pornstarcyborgNHLplayerJediknight one of these?

Posted by chris at 03:12 PM | Permalink

Jolly (air) hockey sticks

Ooh, this is more like it - a mildly addictive Flash air hockey game. No Swedish cockatoo, sadly, but one can't have everything. Apparently. (I tried, but they made me put most of it back.)

Posted by chris at 01:50 AM | Permalink

Blog of the day

Gosh - little old me gets a mention on blog of the day. I'm sure the only reason I made it on is because the editors have run out of truly interesting sites to mention, but hey - a big arigatou gozaimasu (lit.: "fetid octopus balls") to them anyway. Thanks guys.

Posted by chris at 10:23 AM | Permalink


The Japanese for "Belgium" is berugi - pronounced "belgy" with a hard "g". Belgybelgybelgy.

I think I must be bored. Must stop watching late-night teach-yourself-Japanese TV programs.

Posted by chris at 12:45 AM | Permalink

"Hitachi: Proofread the Next"

Hitachi's current tagline:

Hitachi: Inspire the Next

Inspire the next? The next what? The next generation of ad agency slogan generators who can't bear to have a native speaker check over their prose before it goes live? Honestly. Anyone would think this was *Japan* or something... oh. Right.

Posted by chris at 12:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Japanese Language Thumb-twiddling Proficiency Test

Oh, cool - sort of. My test card for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test arrived today; I'm taking the Level 2 at Risshou University in Gotanda on December 2nd. It looks like the same deal as always - ridiculous lengthy gaps between rounds. 50 minutes of kanji and vocab, then a maddening two hour break, then an hour of listening comprehension followed by another hour's break, followed by about an hour and a half of reading comprehension; I'd rather just get the damn thing over with.

At least this time I live quite near the test site; no more hour-and-a-half slog in each direction. I have fond memories of the journey down from Omiya to do the Level 4 a couple of years ago... hung so far over I could practically see Australia, stopping every twenty minutes to find the nearest restroom, fighting the urge to regurgitate the previous night's ramen and praying that I wouldn't fall asleep during the listening section. Mind you, I passed that one pretty convincingly (80% overall, 91% on the kanji) so perhaps I ought to try something similar this year. My houseguest (though shoeboxguest would be more fitting - almost liderally, mate) will be around at the time, though, and he's proved himself to be a more-than-capable partner in crime over the years, so we'll see how things pan out.

Meanwhile, back to the grindystone. Have a play with this (via lukelog) while you're waiting.

Posted by chris at 11:38 PM | Permalink


Too tired to blog much recently... much work, much Japanese study. Not much sleep and not many interesting internet tidbits that you haven't probably already seen = dearth of posting.

Big news is on the way, though. It's going to be houseguest time again soon here at Tokyo Tales Towers, but with a difference. I'm looking forward to it, but I'll tell you why later. I realise that I'm not being deliberately mysterious so much as regrettably vague... patience, Luke.

Posted by chris at 01:18 PM | Permalink

If you should see your mom this weekend...

Now, of course, bootlegging live gigs onto MD is naughty and quite possibly illegal. But, hypothetically, if I were sitting here listening to a recording of Orbital playing at this summer's Fuji Rock Festival, I would probably be nodding along to Chime with a fond smile on my face. Call it a hunch.

Posted by chris at 01:02 PM | Permalink

Note to self

Note to self regarding possible future leisuretime project: learn to count cards.

Posted by chris at 01:14 AM | Permalink

JLPT preparation

Heavy heavy rain tonight; headphones on to block out the drumming on the window, focusing on my Japanese homework for the week. Recently the classes have been going really well... ever since I switched to Sundays, actually. I used to go after work on a Thursday; even on those occasions when I could make it away from the office on time, my swiss-cheese brain wasn't really up to the task of deciphering the difference between hanmen and ippou de - even sushi versus sashimi seemed like too much at times.

Still, better now. I'm actually starting to feel positive about the upcoming test, as opposed to mildly ambivalent. Positive about failing it, I should add - I'm under no illusions here - but positive nonetheless. It's just nice to feel my mind working half-way properly in another language after a period of stagnation.

You might be wondering why I'm planning to fail this test... it's an elaborate tax dodge. No, not really. It's just blimmin' 'ard. Level 4 was easy, Level 3 was a leetle harder, but Level 2 is widely acknowledged to be a huge step up from 3. I'm doing it this year more for the experience; to get a taster of the level required for when I try properly next year. Annoyingly, Level 1 is rumoured to be not much harder than Level 2 - though it's hard enough finding anyone who's passed both to get a first-hand account... I've heard *stories*, oh yes, "stories"... Anyway; Level 2 in December 2002 is the goal. Gambarimasu.

Posted by chris at 01:10 AM | Permalink

Strike a pose

Tokyo moment: crossing a Shibuya footbridge earlier tonight with Raju, on our way to a bar that turned out to be shut: two youngish guys in smart suits, frozen in mid-tumble in the middle of the walkway; each was balancing on one foot, limbs sprawling, and appeared to be caught somewhere between a starting-block pose and Rodin's The Thinker. Meanwhile a third guy prowled around them with a Hi-8 camera... very "artistic"... I'm waiting to see if it shows up on TV at some point over the next couple of weeks and, if so, whether or not two English voices are audible in the background... "I think we'll call it I've Nearly Fallen Over And I Can't Get Up"; "I always thought capoeira was meant to be, you know... more *dancy*..."

You had to be there, I guess.

Posted by chris at 01:16 AM | Permalink

Round and round the Isle of Wight till everyone gets dizzy

Aaaanyway, dream-sequence cockroaches aside, it was a good weekend. I seem to have missed halloween completely... it's not really celebrated over here anyway, but there is one particular Tokyo tradition that deserves mentioning: the Yamanote Line Halloween Party.

The Yamanote Line runs in a circle (more of a rather squished elipsoid, actually, but who's counting?) around the centre of Tokyo. Trains run every two or three minutes and take about an hour to do a complete lap of the city. Not, of course, that you would ever sit on it and ride all the way around - I mean, what would be the point of that? Perhaps you can already see where this is going... I don't know if it happened this year but in years past, a small anonymous ad would appear in Tokyo Classified in the week leading up to Halloween: "Halloween Party; 9:02 pm October 31st northbound from Shinjuku station - BYOB"... the idea being that an entire train would be taken over by costumed foreigners as it wound its way around Tokyo, a mechanized conga of strap-hanging, beer-chugging gaijin ghouls going round and round and round... sounds either brilliantly surreal or absolutely hellish.

I don't think it happened this year... there's very little out there on the web, for instance, and I've seen nothing in the small ads. Possibly the cops cracked down, as they are periodically wont to do. Drinking in public (and indeed on the trains) appears to be legal here, but one thing I've learnt whilst living here is that if the Japanese police decide they want to arrest you for no good reason, there's very little you can do about it. It's hypocritical, really; drunken salarymen's vomiting on fellow passengers is tolerated, but raucous foreigners in fancy dress (no matter how well-behaved) would definitely be fair game. Ah well. I guess I'll be back in the UK in a couple of years or so... Circle Line, 8:56 westbound from King's Cross, anyone?

Posted by chris at 12:55 AM | Permalink

Is roachophobia even a word?

My overriding fear of cockroaches manifested itself in a rather strange way last night... I had a dream where I owned a lizard. Seriously. I had a pet lizard in my flat, and I watched, gleefully, as he hunted down and ate two cockroaches. I attribute this to someone telling me a few months ago that, when they lived in Florida, they found that keeping a pet lizard was the best sure-fire, hassle-free way of dealing with the little buggers.

The only problem is... I don't much like lizards either. Oh well.

(I would just like to point out that I haven't actually seen any roaches in my flat since July. I have no infestation; it's merely an irrational fear that I *might* have roaches somewhere behind the skirting board. Just leave me to it - I'll be fine. Really. <scuttle> What was that? Shit. Phobias - you gotta love 'em.)

Posted by chris at 12:06 AM | Permalink


Remember that Nic Cage advert I mentioned a while back? Not an advert for Nic Cages, of course, but rather a Japanese TV commercial making full use of his magnificent talents... well, I've found it. Praise be. I don't want to spoil the punchline for you again, but it helps if you have a little background knowledge about popular Japanese pseudo-gambling pastimes.

This is very common - Western movie stars appearing on Japanese TV to advertise local products, thereby lending them an air of international savoir-faire cool that could simply not be attained with domestic stars. The best bit is that the stars never have to do very much; witness Antony Hopkins's "Let's have a thrilling time" car commercial (that's literally all he says) or Winona Ryder's efforts for Subaru (Does five seconds of tai chi in park. Stops. Walks up to car. Says "alright!" Drives off. Fin.) All of which makes it all the more satisfying when they *do* try a bit harder - which is why, I hope you'll agree, Nic's Sankyo ads are such exceptional classics.

A huge thank you goes to bwg for pointing me towards this site... it made my week. Similar, albeit with a smaller archive, is gaijin a go-go - worth visiting just to see what happens when Hollywood stars find out that their dirty little Japanese-TV antics are being made available to a wider (and English-speaking) audience...

Sankyo, I'm coming!

Posted by chris at 05:21 PM | Permalink

Enter the Dwagon

There's not very much to this kung-fu game, really, but it's very smoothly done and it does at least give you the chance to fight such martial arts luminaries as Chuck Norris and Jonathan Ross.

Posted by chris at 11:43 PM | Permalink


Ethan has returned from the sea, the Fictionsuits are finally full strength, and I think things are going to start hotting up over there at last - though that's my fault as least as much as anyone else's. Check out Swerd's latest post, and wade in on the comments board - it's time to start pimping (and writing for) this thing properly.

Posted by chris at 12:55 PM | Permalink

Richie Hawtin / Final Scratch / Electraglide 2001

Good article on Richie Hawtin's new DJing method here - playing music files on his Sony VAIO's hard drive and controlling them with standard turntables, by means of special vinyl records. I remember seeing him using a VAIO at his Fuji Rock Festival gig this year, and wondering then what it was for... and now I know. You'll be glad to know it works really well, too - though I can't see, say, Jimmy Saville making the switch any time soon.

Other club news... got my tickets for Electraglide next month; FatBoy Slim, Aphex Twin, Laurent Garnier, Mouse on Mars, Darren Emerson, Plaid and a few others in a convention hall the size of Belgium on November 30th. Yum. I would link the gig's site for you, but there doesn't appear to be anything out there. Let's just imagine instead: a largely shoddy bilingual site plagued with bad spelling and filled with touching sentiment about the healing power of music that clearly demonstrates that the organisers have never heard Aphex Twin play live. It's easy when you know how.

Posted by chris at 10:32 AM | Permalink

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