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2004-03-10 - 1:42 p.m.

this is the clean version. i'll fill in the dirty tomorrow.

the key to rocking tokyo when you have never been there and you only have less than one week to do so is as follows: have a friend who a) lives there, b) is filthy rich, or c) both. well, i made a friend who lives there and he definitely padded the landing (a).

tokyo's airport, narita, is actually far from the city. but there is a train that you can catch without even leaving the airport. the local train took about 1:10 to the JR line in the city. the subway system is a vast expanse of loops and branches that will get you just about anywhere in the city. unlike beijing. you may have to transfer four times, but you will always be within a few minutes walking distance of your desired locale. the subways are swarming with people all day. all of the time. swarming like grand central station at rush hour. and it feels like everyone knows exactly how to manouver through each other. japanese sonar. i used to love waking through mid-town manhattan lunch hour sidewalks. body-to-body and i would challenge myself to never hesitate. never waver. forsee the cracks, the spaces, the moves. i was the zen salmon. so back under the streets of tokyo, i did my best to pull from my past, but lugging heavy bags made me less streamlined and slightly clumsy. when we surfaced to street level, the air was cool, yet mild and much cleaner than beijing.

my friend made reservations somewhere north of the city. i knew nothing of the plan. so in the morning we rented a car with a navigation system and headed to an area called gunma. road-tripping through japan. i was in heaven. the trip took about three hours almost due north of tokyo. the countryside looked unbelieveably similar to vermont and i was instantly at home. the only thing that differed were the signs and the rooftops. and, of course, the people. as we neared our destination, the ground grew thick with snow and the air sharp and thin. winter always lasts longer in the mountains. we pulled into a beautiful resort. one of the oldest of its kind. three separate buildings built over a running stream. this was gunma onsen. a we would spend the night bathing in these ancient hot springs. the rooms were small with sliding wooden doors. exactly like you have seen in movies. we brought our own stove and made a vegan squash stew before preparing for the baths. we sat on the floor with our legs under a heated table and gave unspoken thanks for the peace and stillness. i was totally without want. i drank so much green tea, i even smelled like it. the inn had three indoor springs and one outdoor. there were male, female, and coed schedules and my friend informed me of any rules i should know. although all of the bathing is done in the nude, it is common for people in coed baths to hold a small towel over their privates(little soldiers) as they enter the spring. yakuza, or japanese mafia, are distinguished by their phenominal full-body tattoos. so if you are lucky, bathing would be the place you might see this. we, unfortunately, did not. in fact, we got into the springs so late, we saw none of the elderly couples we had seen earlier in the evening. we started indoors but felt compelled to sit outside in the freezing night. we crawled between the rocks hearing only the delicate rush of the running stream. i arched my back with my arms spread like a falcon and lay flat against a smooth stone, only submerged from the waist down. as i stared up at a jet black sky, snow began to fall. it was a postcard perfect moment. it was almost cliche.

the next few days consisted of combing the city by bike. the nice thing about cycling through tokyo on a bike that is way too small, is that no uphill last for very long. i just pretended i was on a BMX and where i lacked leverage, i gained youth. we cruised into yoyogi park. it's kind of like the central park equivalent but much smaller. we went to a temple much like the forbidden city then a modern museum filled mostly with ugly laquered pieces. i mean, '80's ugly. we left the park, heading toward shinjuku, a huge center for shopping, food, photobooths, clubs, etc. there is a road adjacent to yoyogi, closed off to cars, where, on the weekends, bands set up to perform. back to back. amp touching amp. holy noise pollution batman! every ten feet, a micro pop, punk, or random perfomance is occurring. and what's even cooler, some of them are really talented. it was eye and ear candy. boys with plaid ska caps and pin striped pants. girls with mini skirts and huge slouchy socks. the socks are the rage apparently. i personally like the sleeker look of leg-warmers. and speaking of mini, the girls school uniform consist of a very mini mini and tight socks pulled up to the knee. even *I* was objectifying them. it was a frightening statement on the cultures view of youth and sexuality. but damn they looked cute.

we would end the rides back at the tiny apartment with sliding wood doors, playing mr lif's- i phantom(hip hop) and climb the ladder to the roof as the sun turned everything in view shades of coral and pink. you could smell the cherry blossoming of spring just around the corner.

my last night we headed to shinjuku on bike for a punk showcase featuring friends of friends as the main act. we were the only foreigners there and everyone was unbelievably sweet to us. we rocked out, bought some cd's and went to the gay district to lounge and bid me farewell. there were several exhibits i had wanted to see. tokyo is teeming with culture. and i wouldn't have minded a good bout of ass shaking to japanese infused electronica. but that will have to wait. hot springs, punk music and school girls were plenty for one week.

"it's only mountains and the sea.
there's nothing greater than you and me."

domo arigato.

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