Sunday, August 23, 2009

Two weeks in Japan

That's how long I spent there. Kate T. Williamson spent a year there and has a book to prove it.

A Year In Japan reminded me so much of the time I spent in Tokyo visiting my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time. Williamson's book is a lesson in paying attention to the small details. She sketches and writes about the kinds of things that I remember so well. Like how there aren't any paper towels in Japanese restrooms. You're expected to bring your own wash cloths to dry your hands. Williamson focuses on the beauty of the many wash cloths available -- often highly decorative since they are accessories -- rather than the inconvenience to be a foreigner not hip to this custom with nowhere to dry your hands.

Other quirky things about Japan that Williamson touches upon: how the fruit in stores is individually wrapped, the incredible socks in department stores (as she points out, socks are an important part of one's wardrobe since in Japan people take their shoes off all the time), the "all girl" theater, the many sweets made with bean paste (she liked them, I did not), the overpackaging of everything you buy in a store, and the seriousness of karaoke (while I was there Stacy and I went out with some of her work friends. I sang Aretha Franklin's "Respect." Her Japanese co-workers were very impressed).

She also talked about watching members of the Tokyo Rockabilly Club, a group of temple carpenters who dance in the public square for five hours every Sunday. As a hobby. She writes that they "are accompanied by tapes that alternate between American oldies and Japanese rock 'n' roll (including my personal favorite, 'Funky Monkey Baby,' a Japanese hit from the 70s). The dancers take occasional breaks for snacks, girl friends, grooming, repairing their dance shoes with electrical tape (the surface of the plaza is very rough), and removing the occasional ball or toddler from the center of the dance circle."

I tracked down the song "Funky Monkey Baby," and found that it's by a band named Carol. Here's a video of "Funky Monkey Baby." You can see more at Japan Sugoi: Everything Cool About Japan.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Did you ever see the documentary Planet B-Boy about the breakdancing world championship? Jamie and I just watched it the other night - the Japanese team was by far my favorite.