Thursday, November 13, 2008

Jaded Gaijin Can't Rock

One thing that has constantly been bothering me is the shear number of jaded Gaijin that I run into in this city. They all talk about how the Japanese are xenophobic, racist, and docile. They complain that people here have little personality and depth. It's a wonder why some of these Gaijin stay in Tokyo for years on end.

The number one worst thing that ALL of them tell me, "You've been here a month. You're idealism won't last." Words can be painful.

My blog is a weapon against these stereotypes. With every article, I'm trying to illustrate that if you dig in below the surface, Japan is not what it seems. And by the way, this blog will always be a haven for my idealism. Gaijin, it only takes one evening for me to prove you wrong.

Take last night for example.

I made my third appearance at the Ruby Room open mic and again, I was stuck with the first slot. I hear the die-hards show up two hours early to get a good spot. I took the stage and opened with a fairly emotional rendition of Elvis Costello's 'Alison' and then dive-bombed into my own arrangement of Hendrix's 'Foxy Lady' with a little James Brown style bridge. I was feeling good at first and was getting a good response from the crowd, but by the time I got to the second verse, I forgot some of the lyrics and got confused. I probably butchered the rest of the song. I'm already gearing up for a second attempt next week. "Ganbare!" as the Japanese would say.

Later in the night, while I was sitting and talking with Kei, the guitarist I wrote about last week, two women came up, said hi to him and sat down. Remember my last post about trying to talk Japanese with someone who knows fluent English? It happened again. I started talking with Kayo, the woman who sat next to me, and was quick to learn that she had studied English in New Zealand and currently works for a translation company! I told her I was out looking for a job and then she asked me who I came to the open mic with.

While I was formulating in my head how to say "I don't have any friends here" in Japanese, Kei put his arm around me as if to say "He's with me." I have to admit, it felt pretty cool to be in good company with Japanese rock stars.

We continued talking for about an hour. Kayo is super-interesting, worldly, and very open minded. We talked about problems with ethnocentricity and culture differences between Japan and the US, as well as Australia and New Zealand. I got the vibe that she was probably 30 or under and quite accomplished and professional.

She then introduced me to her friend, Miyuki, who didn't speak English. Miyuki wanted to meet sometime and have me help her with English. Considering I've been keeping tabs of my own problems with Japanese, it could prove to be a worthwhile exchange.

Later on, Kei took the stage. Honestly, the guy is a monster player. This week, he jammed out on some funk tunes that I wasn't familiar with. Read last week's post; I don't need to reiterate his adroitness and authentic style. The girls were telling me that he is famous around here, but I think they were being facetious. In my book, he definitely shares the top slot with Tatti. I told him that I want to see his band play a real show sometime and he told me about their next show in Shinjuku later in the month.

Before taking off, Kayo invited me to a show that her boyfriend's band would be playing at on Thursday. In fact, I was already planning on attending the concert since I had met the guitarist from the same group a week prior. Additionally, a really cool songwriter that I met last week, Yuki, told me that it would be worth checking out.

Xenophobic, racist, boring, standoffish? Wow, I don't know who you've been hanging out with, but I've been ballin'!

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