April 1st, 2005


I hate Japan!

It's time to come clean. For quite some time now I've been making up a series of outrageous fibs about Japan. Regular readers of this blog—the credulous amongst you, anyway—may have built up a mental image of the oriental archipelago as a ribbon of dense, exciting, experimental cities squeezed between wooded mountains and teeming silver seas, traversed by fast trains, studded by volcanoes, full of people bathing naked together, eating the world's most delicious food, then going home to worship nature by fucking for prolonged periods in an ornamental garden.

The truth is quite different. Marxy is right. Japan is—I might as well admit it—a pretty dismal place, a nation in terminal decline. Its cities are ugly agglomerations of concrete boxes, built so close together that there isn't even a view of the sidewalk-free street. Its people are so stressed by overwork (or unemployment) that they're completely unable to muster an erection; the consequence is a disastrously declining birthrate, the lowest in the developed world, which will shortly result in Japan's emergence as the world's most geriatric country. Are you looking forward to seeing Cutie magazine style tips for the over 80s? How is oba chan wearing her colostomy bag this season?

Japan is not only the world's most wrinkly nation, but its most racist. Never queue at Narita immigration behind a black person: you'll be there all day. Japan would rather sink into the Pacific Ocean than admit a single immigrant worker — sorry, "criminal foreigner". Never mind that the robots they're hoping to use instead are nothing more than talking vacuum cleaners. That's better than a Korean. As for the "Korea Boom" we've been hearing about, one Yon-Sama does not make a summer. The only "Korea Boom" Japan is likely to experience is a missile sent straight from Kim Jong-Il's Pyongyang... with love.

Don't get me started on Japanese re-armament, knock-kneed taggle-toothed 35 year-olds who insist on pretending they're 12 year-old Lolitas, the $65 grapefruit, the endless authoritarian teddy bears and Hello Kitty mugs, sound pollution, the mind-crushing boredom of the so-called "slow life", isakaya meals where you pay $50 for a $5 bite of food, the desperate fear of speaking out politically, the mafia-run entertainment industry, the rote-learning education system, the total lack of insulation in houses, the failure to develop an international tourist industry, the dismal poverty of the old, the incapacity to learn English, the pathetic levels of foreign capital investment, the government croneyism and corruption, the fact that the middle-aged salarymen who lost their jobs all drive taxi cabs now despite not knowing where the hell anything is, the vast tarpaulin encampments of the homeless, the endemic sexism, the rotten stinky seaweed that everyone eats, the endless crappy comedy and chat shows on TV, the formulaic rubbish that passes for "J-pop", the milquetoast suburbs that all connect together into one vast ugly sprawl... Japan doesn't smell of sewage for nothing. It's the world's biggest—sorry, smallest and most cramped—shithole.

I'm really amazed you goons have fallen for my Japan schtick for so long. I mean, if Japan is so great, why the hell don't I live there? Now that Marxy's come out of the closet and admitted he secretly loves the place, and I've admitted I hate it, doesn't it make sense that he lives in Tokyo and I live in Berlin? Let's face it, all the best stuff in Japan is European. I had some nice times there in the 1990s because during the Shibuya-kei era it was fashionable for the Japanese to fete Europeans like me. In return, I marvelled at the shit-shaped Asahi Beer Hall and the Talby phone — both touted as examples of Japan's radical experimentalism, but both in fact designed by Europeans. Like everything good in Crapan. The best thing I saw on my last trip there was the Archilab exhibition at the Roppongi Hills Mori Museum (Roppongi! What a sewer! The only good thing there is Super-Deluxe, designed by Europeans Klein Dytham). Well, guess what, that show was put together by Mori director David Elliott, a Brit, and the best stuff on display there was the visionary Archigram stuff—walking cities, garden cities, inflatable cities—again, British. For all its lip-service, has Japan actually built anything by Archigram architects like David Greene and Peter Cook? Of course not. For that you have to go to Europe, to visit the Kunsthaus at Graz in Austria or look at Peter Cook's social housing experiment on the Lützowplatz here in Berlin.

The future isn't Japan, it's Europe. Have a listen to The House of the Future, an excellent BBC radio programme (58 minutes) investigating experimental approaches to life and architecture over the last 50 years. Japan isn't mentioned once.

Note: This entry is an April Fool's Day joke.