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I (Heart) Tokyo - click opera
February 2010
 
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Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 11:31 am
I (Heart) Tokyo

Tokyo is the world's largest city and most expensive city, thronging with the world's longest-living people. You can say that without leaving the realm of objectivity. But to say that it's far and away the world's best and most glorious city, over 200% more attractive than the next most glorious metropolis, New York, its women implausibly beautiful and deliriously sexy, its daily experience (even in the depths of winter) one of "irrational exuberance"... well, that's subjective, isn't it? But it's how I feel when I'm here.

Tokyo lives just slightly faster than the speed of my brain, eats food just slightly more delicious than anything I've ever tasted, and is always just a bit cooler, more knowledgeable and more refined in its tastes than I am. It's like a big brother I admire, a mentor, a guide to life. The last three days, brief but sweet, have reminded me how much I love this city, and how much I want to live here again some day. My friends here, gaijin and Japanese, all seem to have quicksilver minds; conversation flicks and jumps from topic to topic with an incredible liveliness. The city fills me with energy, sexual and intellectual.



Yesterday began with lunch at one of my favourite Tokyo spots (but there are hundreds of contenders), a cafe called Floor in Kitchijioji. I was terrified that Floor might have gone the way of so many of my favourite Tokyo places, and fallen under the developers' wrecking ball. But no, it's still there, perched atop a shabby, ugly building squeezed up against the tracks of the Keio Line. There on the top floor is a sort of charmed world.

Started by the people who founded Idee in Aoyama, Floor is a collection of worn, disparate elements held together by faultless taste. There's a matching mismatch of designer chairs. Lunch (fish, rice, soup) comes in beautiful big worn and cracked bowls, also mismatched, and the chai has big irregular flat rocks of ice in it. The Keio Line trains chug towards Shimokitazawa in their pink livery, filled with chattering schoolgirls. Sunshine floods in through the windows, and you flip through stacks of old copies of Relax, Casa Brutus, Ryuko Tsushin and Studio Voice while well-chosen music plays. You buy a Marimekko hat in the store downstairs, then check out a tiny record store selling old Famicom cartridges... And all seems right with the world.




The afternoon is spent in another, very different, but equally great, cafe, Masako Cafe in Shimokita. This is a windowless jazz den with hipster jazz playing non-stop, beaded curtains, and manga-crammed shelves. The waitress tells us that this place too won't be threatened by the development plans for Shimokita's north side. Good news!

The day ends at Office, Gaienmae, where I do an interview with Martin Webb of the Japan Times, and say an almost tearful farewell to my friends -- Florian, David and Shizu, Alastair, Alex Rich, Misa-Chan, Satoshi, Marxy (pictured)... and Tokyo itself, incarnated temporarily in the flow of head and tail lights on the Aoyama Dori below, with Hikaru Utada and other beauties gazing down benignly from the billboards above.

47CommentReply


i_am_a_hot_sale
i_am_a_hot_sale
waffles forever
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 03:41 am (UTC)

there should be a momus faq!


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piratehead
piratehead
Good bye
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 02:42 am (UTC)

This format lends itself well to travel-writing, and you do it well.


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jammypack
jammypack
Kebin
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 02:50 am (UTC)

I can absolutely relate to and agree with your take on Tokyo. I've been living in a small city in Tochigi for the last two and a half years and every time I make it down to the city (which hasn't been often enough) my mind bristles with ideas. Which is why I'm making the move to Osaka this month. Get back to the city. While I wouldn't say I've been artistically stagnant in my small, humorless town, the extra juice that comes from being around the rhythm and undulations of a unique Asian city is definitely why I came to Japan in the first place.


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shiu
shiu
シュウと許紹揚の神隠し aka shiu-rited away
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 08:06 am (UTC)

hmm... small, humourless japanese towns are quite unexpected artistically stimulating for me.


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thunderbox
DHM
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 02:58 am (UTC)

Do you speak Japanese well?


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loosechanj
loosechanj
LooseChanj
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 03:17 am (UTC)

Just wanted to point you in the direction of outpost nine, in case you might like that sort of thing. I know it's pretty damn hilarious to me. Kancho!


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po0piecakes
po0piecakes
Mandy
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 03:49 am (UTC)

i dream of tokyo


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cityramica
cityramica
cityramica
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 05:12 am (UTC)

marxy's pretty cute!

when to new york, do you travel?


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nato_dakke
nate
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 05:20 am (UTC)

Why is it that you've deicded to hole up in oosaka?

and you know "irrational exuberance" is kind of code for a tenuous situation bound to collapse dramatically, right? I like to think that Tokyo's exuberance is well founded, and (at least semi-)permanent.


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shiu
shiu
シュウと許紹揚の神隠し aka shiu-rited away
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 08:08 am (UTC)

what exactly are the plans for shimokitazawa? so it's only the north side that is getting turned into a bright shiny ekimae? phew. i rarely go north anyhow.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
blndsnnts
Christina Ǽthier M©Ni$hq
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 03:24 pm (UTC)

I will never underestimate Click Opera again. Until tomorrow.


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charleshatcher
charleshatcher
charleshatcher
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 11:22 am (UTC)

Yes, it is subjective... it's not unlike a paedophile liking Neverland.


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petit_paradis
petit_paradis
erik
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC)

thats a nice outfit in your icon there ;-)


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 11:39 am (UTC)

how i envy you!

just so you know, the final editing of syllabus of errors is almost done. i just need some time to take some distance with it, then i'll send you a file.

dewa dewa

olivier


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 02:45 pm (UTC)

Wa sugoy!


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armoredbaby
armoredbaby
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 02:48 pm (UTC)

one of "irrational exuberance".

Is this term of conscious "Greenspan-ese" nature or borrowing?

That place looks sweet (Floor) I am diggin that yellowish chair but especially like the wall-hanging of the bunny on cloth.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 02:57 pm (UTC)

Greenspanese, yes. His phrase sums up how I feel in Tokyo. It also chimes in with the theme I began today's entry with, the idea of subjective rather than objective appreciation. And, for followers of the Nikkei, it has a particular resonance this week because, after putting on something like 26% in the past few months, the Tokyo index fell 6% this week after revelations that high-flyers LiveDoor may have been a little subjective in their performance reports.


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bklyndispatch
bklyndispatch
in exile
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)

if tokyo is number one, and new york number two, why did you choose to live in Berlin?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 03:17 pm (UTC)

Because the rent's high and the war's on.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 04:52 pm (UTC)
Off topic (on differences)


Just to keep you (and your comment readers) updated on the cultural differences in perception. I cut and paste from todays Science (Highlights in the literature section):

There is ample evidence that people in different cultures can exhibit dissimilar ways of thinking. For instance, Asians pay more attention to context and to the relationships between focal (foreground) objects and background in their descriptions of visual scenes, whereas Americans mention the focal items with greater frequency. Why this occurs is unclear, as is the cognitive source of the differences in behavior.

Miyamoto et al. present a set of studies that begin to identify the underlying processes and how the physical environment may serve to reinforce cultural distinctions. They presented Japanese and American study participants with photographs taken of hotels, schools, and post offices located in large, medium, and small cities in Japan and the United States. People of both nationalities rated the scenes of Japan as being more complicated (more objects, more chaotic, more obscured parts); although the U.S. scenes increased in complexity with city size, the Japanese scenes did not and were all more complex than those from the large U.S. city (New York). A similar ranking was obtained by analyzing the photos with the NIH Image program. In order to assess the influence of complexity on behavior, both nationalities were tested for their ability to detect changes in focal objects and background information in neutral vignettes after having been primed with the photos of Japan or the United States. Having first viewed a more complex scene improved the abilities of both the American and Japanese participants in reporting contextual, as opposed to focal, changes. -- GJC

Psychol. Sci. 17, 113 (2006).

So there is hope for all you americans out there. Japanize your brains!

/bug


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 09:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Off topic (on differences)

Interesting to combine that with the latest research showing that eating oily fish increases intelligence. The Japanese love of fish may be linked to the complexity of environments here.


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