March 17th, 2005



One of the weird constants of my life over the last ten years is that wherever I've lived, I've basically gravitated to a Japanese social and cultural scene. You could say that doubled my exile -- I was not only living in New York, but living in Japanese New York -- but also halved it, because wherever I was I had the same food, the same magazines, the same basic outlook on life. In a life of constant flux, it's been a constant, a life-support system, a confirmation of some of my basic values.

I could dedicate a whole essay to how the Japanese in Paris (a fashion tribe, mostly) differ from the Japanese in London (graphic designers like Hisae, who was studying graphics at St Martin's when she walked up to me one evening on Brick Lane with the fatal words "Excuse me, are you Momus?") and the Japanese in New York (artists), but the constants are more important. The Japanese are always Japanese, wherever they are and whatever they're doing, and I always gravitate to them, and they to me. I couldn't even begin to explain why this affinity exists, although reading a year of this blog would begin to answer the question. But I'm willing to bet that if, like a koi fish, we had only a six-second memory span, the Japanese and I would discover each other all over again every six seconds as we swam around the bowl.

Moving to Germany might have upset my Japanese-abroad lifestyle, for two reasons. First of all, most of the Japanese in Germany are business people rather than the artists and art students I usually hang out with. That's certainly true of cities like Dusseldorf, which have substantial numbers of Japanese. Secondly, there are still very few Japanese in Berlin. These aren't major problems, though. I've got round the smallness of the Japanese community here by inviting Japanese to join me, or by using Berlin as a cheap living base, a launchpad for frequent trips to Japan. Yes, you can't yet fly direct to Asia from the airports here, but that will soon come. And more Japanese will soon come too, thanks to things like the recent edition of Composite magazine which advised young Japanese to get their asses over here while it's still an "outsized village of artists".

It's nice that it's still quite easy to know all the Japanese businesses and institutions in town quite well, and know most of the Japanese-about-town. This being Berlin, these Japanese are "my type of person". There's Hanayo, the geisha-turned-artist. There's Aki Inagawa, who makes records under the name Lambent. And there's Yoske Nishiumi who runs Koiklub, Berlin's only regular Japanese-oriented club evening, and Koimag, a free magazine for the Japanese community here, distributed in the places the Japanese tend to go (Sasaya, Kombini, Smart Deli, Neurotitan, ProQM...) And the population is still small enough that the departure of one Japanese makes a dent. This morning my friend Mami, a designer, e mailed asking if I wanted to buy her tatami mats (seven and a half tatamis, at 60 euros each). She's moving back to Japan in May. And Kaori Mitsushima, with whom I made music last year for a student theatre production, has just moved to Prague with her boyfriend Mika. They couldn't find work in Berlin, and someone offered them a job and a big flat there, so they went. (Hisae and I are about to move into their apartment in Friedrichshain, as a matter of fact. It's less than 400 euros a month, all bills included, and the location is much better than the place we're in now.)

Well, tonight I'll play a one-hour Momus show at Koiklub. Many of Berlin's familiar Japanese faces will be there, along with a scattering of fellow-travellers and nippophiles like myself. Zen Yoshimoto will model plastic bodies, Yuko and Telle will be doing "body flow" (not quite sure what that means, perhaps it's a dance?), Jutojo will VJ, and the bar will be serving Kirin Ichiban. The show will open with Playconcrete at 11ish, I'll take the stage around midnight, and when I finish Prosumer will DJ. Yoske invited me to play not because he'd heard of Momus -- he hadn't, and on the Berlin scene he's actually more famous than me, warranting two pages in the current de:bug, something I could only dream about -- but because he happened to see me perform in clothes shop Belleville earlier in the year, dressed as The White Archer, and thought I was just the thing to amuse the Japanese who come to his club. Well, if the cap fits, wear it. And if you're in Berlin, come.

(Momus live at KOIKLUB, Bar Karl Marx Allee 36. Starts 22.00. No door charge.)