Ashikaga matsuri

Kakigori: the snow nectar of the gods.

Kakigori: the snow nectar of the gods.

Matsuri time

I walked in a traditional Japanese parade the other day.

I’ve seen these parades walk by plenty of times over the years, but this was my first time actually walking along with one. It was a neighborhood group, with a lot of kids in it. In fact the main portable shrine (called a mikoshi) was being carried by only kids. About 15 of them helping to support the golden shrine. It kind of reminded me of when Indiana Jones and Sallah first lifted the Lost Ark out of its resting place in Raiders.

The kids carried the shrine and another group of kids pulled a small wagon with a couple taiko drums on it. The kids would beat the drum when they weren’t bored. The adults in the group yelled ‘washoi,’ when they weren’t bored or overheated.

We made a couple stops along the way to get drinks of cold tea or enjoy popsicles that old men and women passed out. At these stops adults would try to teach the kids on the drums how to beat the traditional rhythms. The kids didn’t really pay attention to these instructions. They were more interested in the popsicles.

After about 45 minutes of winding through houses and rice fields we ended up at the neighborhood shrine. The neighborhood moms had set up tents and were selling such traditional festival foods like yakisoba noodles and ‘American dogs,’ which were corn dogs.

There were also a series of games for kids to play. There was a kiddie pool filled with waterballoons with strings attached to them. Kids were given little strips of tissue paper with paperclip hooks on the end of them. The tissue paper would dissolve as soon as a kids dipped it in the water to catch a balloon. An impossible task. But a good way to tax the town kids 100 yen at a time.

We bought our packets of yakisoba noodles and a few American dogs and headed back to the house to enjoy our festival spoils.

Matsuri parade in Ashikaga, Japan.

Matsuri parade in Ashikaga, Japan.

Tokyo Sidewalk Report

Tokyo is sunny today.

The humidity is making it easier to smell the hipsters.

Designer looking guys carrying designer bags wearing Vans are getting paid to walk around and establish trends.

Ladies are gathering and going to lady cafés to eat lady portions of imitation Italian food.

Mothers ride bicycles with kid seats on the front and back filled with kids, they weave in and out of traffic and the executive drivers in their Porsches and Lamborghinis don’t slow down or react at all to the moms and their kids precariously swerving by.

Men in suits crane their necks and squint at smart phones as they dumb walk the sidewalks and collide into each other canceling each other out.

More men with man purses and David Beckham hairdos walk assuredly by with constantly furrowed brows constantly taking selfies and reviewing them only to delete them until they get a perfect shot.

The Supreme otaku walks by sporting Supreme gear from head to toe fantasizing that this is New York and not Tokyo, dreaming of being someone else with a different personality and having wild foreign adventures abroad.

The yakuza man rolls up and takes his sweet time getting out of his tinted windowed vehicle as his female companion wears uncomfortably fitting jeans and tank top as she stumbles in high heels to buy a Snickers bar and a pack of cigarettes for her yakuza sugar daddy.

A guy with a perfectly executed bowl haircut bumbles by from the wrong year.

A DJ swaggers through passing out business cards that declare him a DJ as he wears beats by fees and bobs his head to the music because that’s what DJs in Hollywood films do boiiiii.

A writer in mandatory smart glasses observes his environment and crafts cutting points of view that he will lay out in his moderately followed by his friend circle blog.

Two baseball boys tote their gear in full uniform coming from a practice where their coach didn’t allow them water breaks in the 100-degree weather because drinking water is a sign of weakness.

The sneaker head walks delicately to protect his fresh kicks as he heads to another sneaker shop to buy backups of what he’s wearing because he heard he needs a pair on ice.

Nezu Museum, Omotesando, Tokyo.

Nezu Museum, Omotesando, Tokyo.

Running in the rain

I am Tom Cruise.

I am a Nike shoe.

I am a karaoke video scene.

I am the drummer of my own parade.

My t-shirt looks good.

I’ve got that mindless determined face.

My mind is filled with god-level one liners.

I think in fortune cookies of truth.

I am the CEO of this sidewalk.

The thought leader of this intersection.

Life never makes more sense than during a jog in the rain.

My soaking socks don’t agree.

The rain plus my sweat are gasoline.

I’m an Oregonian.

I am Pre.

My soul is as sturdy as Haystack rock.

The rain will not stop me.

My conviction is flooding my reason.

Umbrellas are signs of weakness.

Puddles are irrelevant.

We all live in my yellow submarine.

I scream at the heavens like Harry Potter.

Like George Costanza.

I am the guy who runs in the rain.

It juts my jaw out like this.

I can’t help that I look like a damn hero.

Splashing with school boy abandon.

Seriously, pick a Tom Cruise movie, any one.

That’s me now.

I’m a star as long as this storm lasts.

David Lynch Lithographs in Tokyo

David Lynch has some nice lithographs on the 8th floor of Shibuya Hikarie right now. They are on sale for 3,000 dollars. There are also a few limited edition photos on sale for 8,000 dollars. I really like how his letters and words look.

Event info here:

Get ‘em next time Samurai Blue.

Get ‘em next time Samurai Blue.

The intensity of Japanese little league practice

Baseball is deadly serious business in Japan.

Even for five-year olds.

I walked by a little league practice the other day and found a group of five year olds scattered across a dusty diamond.

They were swinging bats wildly at each other like swords and kicking baseballs around like footballs.

Then their coach stepped in. A 40-something guy in full uniform, stirrups and ball cap. He barked some commands but the lively rascals paid him no attention. Then he started cracking skulls by slapping heads that were within an arm’s length. It was effective. The molecular collection of five-year olds started to cluster around the fully uniformed grown man.

The coach was very heavy handed at all turns of the practice. He struck the back of one 5-year old’s knee with a metal bat. He backhanded another boy in the chest who overthrew his teammate. And he pulled and twisted another boy’s neck to demonstrate how your head should turn when you’re watching a pitch go by.

It all seemed so militaristic to me. I thought about Japanese friends of mine who have said they didn’t have fun playing sports. I wondered where the room to have fun was if even five-year olds are subjected to this kind of physical intensity from their coaches.

Japanese coaches are famous for being critical of how ‘soft’ American baseball culture is. If soft means leaving some room for imagination and freedom, I’ll take it. But I also think about how top Japanese players like Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka always say they can’t believe how hard American baseball players train when they first experience the MLB.

Anyway, I had seen coaches displaying their physical dominance in Japan before. This was just my first time to really watch such young kids at a practice, and I thought it was interesting that there were traces of that mentality at such a junior level.

I hope future generations of ballplayers in Japan will be given some room to enjoy the game and not simply be terrified of the repercussions of failing on the practice field.

Japan will rise again.

Japan will rise again.

World Cup viewing in Ashikaga, Japan.

World Cup viewing in Ashikaga, Japan.

Neymar is off to a great start for the home team.

Neymar is off to a great start for the home team.

This makes sense in Japanese.

This makes sense in Japanese.

Tokyo Invader

Tokyo Invader

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