Looking for Inspiration in Japan
by Joel R. Voss aka. Javantea
April 14, 2006 20:56 JST
Tokyo may be a very good place to find inspiration for stories. Foreign stuff that doesn't make sense always makes for good storytelling, but Tokyo has something over most other places: the art of saying stuff without revealing meaning. Some say that this is solved by context, but I disagree. I often consider myself an novice of understanding meaning, but even the masters of deceit could not guess what most of the stuff in Tokyo is really all about. Night Theater: porn or not? Softmap: H-games or not? Sunshine Pachinko: gambling or manga?
It wouldn't be so bad if everything wasn't so well advertised. Certainly you can advertise a restaurant easily enough, but when the advertisement says "Special Service Ticket" and has no recognizable kanji or hiragana, you gotta wonder what the fuck they're selling. Don't let me move away from the topic. This is all tied into the idea of storytelling. Imagine the story of an American tourist who gets a packet of tissue from a nice young lady that advertises "Wonder Party Work" and wanders into a place. He is given a sheet of paper like he has gotten from internet/manga cafes and 5 minutes later they take his kidneys. Certainly you can imagine things from Video Girl AI to Love Hina that start with simple misunderstandings. Misunderstanding is certainly a terrifically interesting way to see a city. Why, what is Lost in Translation all about if not the philosophical journeys of two Americans who don't understand anything?
My favorite store (non-restaurant) in Tokyo is probably not very socially acceptable in America. But I think that since I'm in Japan, I can break the rules a bit while I'm here. When in Rome, they say. This place is an erotic manga store. From a distance, you see books, so you think bookstore. It's a bit funny there isn't the kanji for book in the name. Maybe it's so obvious what they sell they don't need the kanji in the name. I walk in and the first section I see is some of the most hentai of hentai manga I have ever seen. So I move to another section. It's all hentai. There's a tiny section on the far wall where it's live action video (pron). Total misunderstanding, but I have to say, what a nice place. There doesn't exist a nicer store. The old man at the counter is very quiet. The patrons all wear virtual blinders. And the products are indeed fascinating. Let me tell you.. (On second thought, no.)
Pachinko is a big business in Japan. A few blocks from my house, there is a big place covered in quasi-anime figures called Sunshine Asakusa. They gave me some tissue as an advertisement. Gambling for money is illegal, but there's a workaround: give away toys as prizes, then have the players sell the prizes for cash. The people who buy the prizes can then sell them back to the Pachinko place restarting the cycle. But they made it much more interesting. Next door to my favorite store is a hole in the wall with three English letters and absolutely no explanation. It is now obvious to me that it is the organized prize selling station.
So I came up with a quick concept for a manga. A young guy from wherever comes to Tokyo with no return ticket (like Megatokyo without Largo). He can't find a place to stay, so he wanders the streets misunderstanding everything. He runs into the wrong crowd in Tokyo backalleys and soon he's being beaten up by a bunch of punks. When all the sudden a group of cyclists enter the scene and the punks leave. The cyclists talk with the young man and give him a bike. They ride around the city talking loudly very simple topics like work, play, the opposite sex, and various other things. Eventually he finds out the boxes that they are carrying (and he is now carrying) are packed with explosives. When he freaks out, he is unable to communicate his horror and gives up trying. A while later his worst fear is finally confirmed walking from his bike to the door of a construction site: he is run over. The end.
That last part was kinda thrown in there to make it edgy and so I can show off this kanji dictionary gem: 轢死 [れきし] /(n) death by being run over/ I originally found that by looking up: 歴史 [れきし] /(n) history/(P)/ The way you say history is the same way you say "death by being run over" which explains a lot.
Back to the idea of inspiration:
Talking about history, a walk that spans more than 3 blocks often ends up getting me lost. Being lost is probably the most fun part of tourism for me. It'd be cool if I could figure out how to pick up chicks while lost, because if I did, I'd have a harem over here. From Kanda (a few blocks south of Akihabara) I made my way east to Suidobashi and eventually got lost eventually ending up at the Imperial Gardens. On my way, I saw the very sweet and famous bookstore street. I finally made it to Suidobashi, but could not find the way out of Tokyo Dome City, so I eventually walked to Kourakuen. Then I walked back and found a nice internet/manga cafe.
It's quite easy to find new things by getting lost. Finding inspiration is just a matter of allowing imagination to roam. Imagine a story of a young girl who is trying to find a boarding house in Tokyo and gets off a station too early. Instead of taking the next train, she decides to take a walk around her new neighborhood. She gets lost and eventually saves the life of a college professor (death by being run over) and passes an advanced algebra test. She is admitted to Toudai and becomes the smartest mathematician ever.
But more than inspiration to write stories, imagination should inspire a person to live life. Certainly it isn't too much to say that a person who is fully content in checking stuff out will never get bored. Every city is ever changing and the world is bigger than you think. Perhaps the inspiration that I'm looking for is the inspiration to do. Do this, do that, just do.
Rising Sun Sakura
- Washing Clothes in Japan
- What is it Like? or Coolhunter Javantea
- Lively if not Live from Japan
- Getting Cheap Air Fare to Japan
- Getting a Cheap Place in Japan
- Learn Hiragana and Katakana
- Learn Kanji Quickly - Level 4
- Learn Kanji Quickly - Level 3 - Part 1
If you are interested in traveling Japan, feel free to