Rage in Tokyo
It was the Friday before a long weekend in February, and I’d gradually given up on trying to convince a frustrated teacher to stay at his job for one more year. Having long since abandoned my original mission, I finally changed the subject by asking my disaffected ALT about his long weekend plans. He told me he was seeing Rage Against the Machine in Tokyo. An hour later, I was buying tickets at the convenience store across the street.
A. insisted on wearing her glasses to the concert so she could see. Given that she is 152 cm tall, seeing requires that I lift her up at regular intervals. However, we were separated halfway through the second song, and I only managed to find her again at the end of the concert, by which time she had a cut on her right eyelid and her glasses had to be tracked down somewhere in the middle of the floor, where they lay mangled and dismembered. A. described the experience as like spending 90 minutes being tossed about in the ocean.
On the other hand, having moshed to Rage as early as 8:30 in the morning, I accordingly sought out the biggest foreigners in the audience to bounce off. I’ve tried playing The Defender, but I find it just frustrates me.
Though moshing was fun to some extent, I was generally disappointed by the show. Rage had acted as a fulminating musical conscience in the 90s, and I had lamented their total absence over the Bush years. They had left their post so completely unattended that Trent Reznor found it necessary to climb out of his introspective catacomb to lament the state of the world beyond his own mind, and three-chord Green Day somehow emerged from a decade of adolescence to hone itself into a razor-sharp political scalpel. Frontman Zack jumped and yelled, but otherwise had only the words “arigatou gozaimasu” to add to his lyrics. That was it. There was no indication that a decade had nearly passed while Rage had held its tongue.
Zack was still singing as if the culture war were the most important war facing America today. “Some of those that hold office / Are the same that burn crosses” does not begin to reflect the wilful mass myopia and yellow-bellied mendacity that enabled the current global conflagration. Rage was probably the only musical force that could have invigorated 2002’s self-emasculated entertainment media, and they chose to sit it out.
Then again, I may be over-playing their significance, but I can’t help but think it might have been nice to have had a voice in those days. Hell, the Dixie Chicks stuck their necks out further than Rage did when it really counted.
After the show, A. and I stayed in a capsule hotel in Tokyo. She managed to find one with “double” capsules, and as I’d never had the experience, it seemed a worthwhile adventure.
We received not a key to a capsule, but a key to our locker, which was on the other side of a curtain by the front desk. The capsule was to be reached by elevator after you changed. We each received Japanese pajamas and a towel, and proceeded to get ready for bed.
Most capsule hotels are for men only, but this one had a separate curtained-off changing area for women. The shower room reflected the male bent of the place, however: while the men’s showers had eight sinks, three standing showers, three onsen-style seated showers, a cold pool, a hot tub, and a massage chair, A. spent half an hour in line with a dozen other women waiting to access their two showers. There were only about three people on the men’s side, and one of them was simply sitting in the massage chair—naked. A. couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to get on the chair next.
As for the capsules, envisage the sleep chambers in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Picture space-aged white walls, two parallel rows of giant honeycomb doorways opening up on either side, and little pairs of slippers on the monochrome carpet denoting which capsules were occupied. Ascending a ladder to our second-level capsule, I could almost hear the distant drone of “Ground control to Major Tom.”
The capsule itself comprised a 2m x 1m x 1m plastic box with a shelf moulded into one side, where one could find a plug socket, controls for the light, radio, and TV, and a completely extraneous remote control. The volume knob was clearly a placebo, as the only audio setting was “whisper,” and there was no sign of a headphone jack.
Sadly, the entrance was not a hermitically sealed laundromat dryer door as I’d imagined, but a vinyl pull-down blind that made the plastic tub incredibly hot. Within 30 minutes, I had to open the blind and flip over to put my head at the entrance, covering myself with a wet towel. This didn’t really cool me down, but it did make me privy to every whisper and footfall in the corridor as guests continued to slink in until about 4:00, shortly after which they began to slink out.
All in all, it wasn’t a good night. But my curiosity had been sated.
The Curse of Gaijinkhamen
This last year was a terrible one if you worked for our branch of Company B and cared at all about your own well-being or that of your family. It got to the point where New Number Two and I were seriously discussing going to a church to get absolution for whatever sin we had committed, while the branch manager was ready to make an official office excursion to pray at the local shrine. It started around November, and just got progressively King-Tuttier.
Over five months, our ALTs were afflicted with shattered bones, automobile collisions, midnight ambulances, the deaths of mothers and grandmothers, and a sudden illness that required a doctor to fly into a school by helicopter. Then, while New Number Two was talking to a veteran ALT to sort out some complaints, the ALT was hit by a car. The ALT wasn’t hurt, but I managed to convince the credulous office staff that New Number Two had a “smite” button on his computer.
I got to teach at about half of these teachers’ schools while they were out, as well as covering for the few others who would inevitably decide to extend their holiday time. I got to see snow on the mountains in Kyoto and have my second snowball fight in Japan, so it wasn’t all bad.