A Japanese pop song keeps going through my head:


I should get audioblogging so I could sing the little phrase for you. It must be the biggest hit right now as it’s tailor-made for not being able to get out of your head. The lyrics are over-enunciated so that even the drunkest might be able to sing it at karaoke. The mood is ebullient — full of the vitality of teen sex — those who are able to do it again and again. The syllables of the punchy phrase break down like this:




It means: “That wonderful romance (sex/love) one more time!”

Somehow my subconscious keeps translating it into:


Which translates as “That wonderful country one more time!”

There’s a nursery-rhyme quality to the Japanese language which makes it especially suited to little jingly phrases and songs. I kept thinking, on rainy days, in spite of myself, over and over:



(Even if it’s raining, let’s go outside).

It didn’t rain so much on our trip. Most of the days were surprisingly shiny. I think I mentioned that before. One moist day was the day we took the train from Takayama to Kyoto — an exquisite ambling five-hour trip during which we had endless opportunities to watch the mist rise from the volcanic hills…

There is nothing greener than a rice paddy at this time of year.

I wanted to throw myself into the rows of tea bushes and roll around in them, devour them.

Japan is deeply aromatherapeutic. Everywhere, ocha (tea), osenko (incense), and good fish smells.

Walking back home in the evening to Daishin-in, the subtemple at Myoshin-ji, a striking temple complex not far from Ryoanji, where we stayed for one night in Kyoto: intense wafting fragrance of gardenias.

I like to really involve myself in eating a bowl of noodles, letting the broth steam up my face and inhaling deeply. I like to become the broth even as it’s becoming a part (a party) of me. Else why make the bowls as big as a face?

Ramen under the train tracks in Shibuya — I forgot to order menma! Stupid.

Karaoke until the wee hours on our last night in Japan — wistful — hanging on to the mike like hanging on to the experience — singing KOI NO VACANSU, RINGO OIWAKE, and also, just to be perverse, THOSE WERE THE DAYS.

I don’t think that Heriberto, in his essay not long ago bashing karaoke, quite gets it. I guess if you don’t love it you just can’t get it.

Sawako was there! Sawako! I loved meeting you! She laughed at my choice of songs, and at one point said to me, “You’re so Japanese.” It’s funny — she was born there, and Japanese is her native tongue. But altogether, I lived there longer than she did.

I realized, yesterday, talking to Nick and Toni about our trip, that I lived in Tokyo longer than I ever lived in any one other place. When I was little I moved around Chicago and Northern California a lot. I lived in San Francisco for five years and now I have lived in Brooklyn for five years. But I lived in Tokyo for eleven years, eleven very important years.


is the little tune.

Not that Japan is perfect — I know that my lenses are rose-tinted from both the honeymoon effect and also my outsider privilege. But I love how the culture is all about anticipating human needs — it feels buffered, sweety, comfort! happy!– there are nice things to drink everywhere, and beautiful toilets when you need to expel the drinks — little salty snacks (in great packages) — all the noodles one could ever dream of — bright colors — arrangements of tiny objects — loveable series — a coddled landscape — pruned — attended to — all natural materials attended to — fetishized — each daily object provides aesthetic satisfaction — even, for example, the strange boatlike rubber booties one wears to clean the bathtub —

here, it’s like… no one… cares…

except for a kind of harsh angular “glamour” that doesn’t interest me because it distances rather than appeals… it’s even in the porn here — power trips — status — chrome — I don’t long for that.

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