Day 0: Locked the door, took one step, tripped and almost fucked up my knee/took a header down the stairs. The plane does a u-turn about ten minutes after takeoff, the third pilot had a seizure. Flight cancelled. The majority of United employees deserve to have the shit slapped out of them.
We were towards the back of the plane. As we're getting off the only instructions given were "follow the line." A few minutes later, there is no line. What the fuck. The wife and I align ourselves with a nice gentleman perfectly willing to ream out everybody we see to figure out what the hell is going on. It turns out our mystery destination that nobody from United could tell us was... the front counter.
Somehow we managed to beat almost the entire rest of the flight there. I'm pretty sure what happened was everybody behind us followed my hair into the United Club line, giving us just enough time to get the drop on them. Same flight next day was already booked solid, we just barely found something that worked for me the next day. Seriously, if not for my incredible haircut putting us at the front of the re-book line, I would never have made it to Japan.
Day 1: Smooth sailing to Narita. We get to the hotel around dinner time and start walking around looking for a restaurant. I had to stop to sit down for a second. And that's when I realized I had really fucked up.
I sweat like a pig when I fly. Not sure if it's being stuffed into economy seats, rocking a backpack gettin those pits flowing, if I was scared of flying in a past life, or what. But yep, I sweat like Rob Ford sprinting to the crack store. It was like 80 degrees out in SF after our flight was cancelled. We got some wings delivered, scarfed em down, and I couldn't put a finger on why I felt too funky to drink a beer. Oh, you're dehydrated, dummy.
I did not address that issue. Then we flew for real. Big, big mistake. I was absolute toast when we got to Japan, and would be up until my last day in the country. I got the joy of discovering I left my appetite in the States shortly after we walked into maybe the most awesome restaurant I've ever been to. It was izikaya style, which means lots of grilled meat on skewers. You're supposed to take your time and drink beer and stuff your face for a couple hours. Certain orders resulted in everybody yelling and cheering. It was basically a party. I enjoyed a nice meal of edamame, broth, tea and water. Had three nibbles off a chicken skewer and thought I was gonna barf.
Narita wasn't too hoppin for Halloween, not that I had it in me to hit the town anyway, but I was disappointed that I didn't get to bust out my costume of a hockey mask and Raiders hoodie, a creation which I dubbed "Owen 16." I did bust out all my Black Rain quotes (Neeck-san!) on the walk back to the hotel, just to get that out of the way.
Day 2: We got up and took a train to Tokyo for our friend's wedding party. First stop was the famous fish market. Managed to put down half of a salmon rice bowl. Holy shit was that good. Then we took a nice cab ride through Tokyo to the party. My wife doesn't like Tokyo. There is apparently some kind of Osaka/Tokyo beef where most people prefer one town over the other. The wife made it abundantly clear where she stood on that. Tokyo seemed pretty cool based on what I saw, which wasn't a whole lot.
Party was fun as hell. I dined on raw carrots and half a beer. I looked so tore back people I had just met were asking me if I was OK- and that was after I thought I caught a second wind. Afterwards we left with my wife's friend and her husband to crash at their pad in Chigasaki, near Yokohama.
Day 3: Chigasaki is paradise. It's a beach town, a surfboard in every backyard. Our friends lived in a beach house they had built pre-fab style. At one point they showed us the other side of the tracks where the "rich people" live, and I was incredulous. Eventually when that came up again I couldn't hold my tongue and told them "You know, THIS is how rich people live. It's probably their second home, but yeah." They took us out to lunch (fucking bomb, again) and the wife and I jumped on the bullet train to Osaka.
There appeared to be a wife beating the shit out of her husband on the train. They were sitting right in front of us with two little girls, and she straight punched him in the jaw a number of times. My wife did not notice this at all. Dude took a number of closed-fist backhands to the grill, and blocked several more. The wife said the only conversation she caught was the kids saying they hated dad. They were not alone in that sentiment! She assured me that was not commonplace for Japan. I was kinda worried that's how they rolled over there, that she could just kick my ass in public and I had to take it. Phew...
We got into Osaka, which is fucking awesome. My wife and the cab driver talk shit about Tokyo the whole way to the hotel. Jeez, guys. I turn on the TV in the hotel, and it's J-League soccer. A minute later, somebody scores to tie up the game. THAT'S MY NEW JAPANESE SOCCER TEAM. A sub comes in and scores the game winner. Fuck yeah. And then in the post-game interview we learn that my new team, which I will never turn my back on, is mired in a relegation battle. Of course they are.
First things first, I had to go burn my mouth on some Osaka takoyaki. Then we made a considerable effort to find someplace to watch the Raiders game the next morning. We hit up a sports bar, who told us to hit up the big sports bar, who told us to hit up their smaller sister sports bar. That sounded like a "we don't watch football here" to me, so we made one last attempt and asked the guy at the front of the Nike store. Turned out he was a big football fan, a Seahawks fan for that matter (legit too- he lived in Portland for awhile), who said he catches all the games eventually but he had no idea where to watch live. At that point we gave up. I ended up "watching" the game via live Bleacher Report updates on the wife's phone.
Main event that night was the Stones Throw Asian tour. It was some of their newer beat/down-tempoish artists. We get there around eleven and the DJ is killing it with 80's joints on wax. We were both pretty fired up that we were going to get some serious old school jammy jams. Next DJ gets on with his laptop and sucks major balls trying to play a new jack slow chunky rap set. That was very inadequate. I heckled his chump ass. Then they had a dance showcase, which consisted of a handful of Japanese dudes flopping around. That was very inadequate as well. I have no idea who told these guys they were worthy of wearing matching outfits. By the time the headliners got on it was after 1 AM, and we decided the first DJ laced us with enough quality entertainment to call it a night. It was a little too late and cigarette-smoky for that slow shit. I got a t-shirt for 6000 yen to commemorate the occasion. The only beer they served was Carlsberg on tap. I need an explanation for that.
Day 4: I fucked up and didn't eat a full meal when I could have the night before, so I'm running on fumes again. I contemplate asking the wife to walk behind me so she doesn't lose me if/when I faint in the street. We had a few hours to kill before we caught a bus to her folks', so we decided to go record shopping.
I was very skeptical about the digging out there. My want-list is razor thin right now. It's not that I have every record I want, by any means. But I do have damn near every record I know I want, and can afford. So not being inclined to pay value, I wasn't expecting to find much out there. WRONG.
First spot we went to was better than I expected. Grabbed a few pieces, saw a few classics on the wall priced quite reasonably, and became a little more optimistic. We chatted up the dude working there who sent us down the street to a building that had a large handful of record stores in it. The first one we checked out was crap. No good rap, all way overpriced.
We tried another store in the building, and that's when things began to get magical. Nice little store, real nice guy named Masa running it. He had a stash of mid-to-late 90's Japanese rap records he had just got in, all in beautiful shape, fresh and unpriced. First thing I noticed was how many of them I already had, which was pretty cool. I started pulling stuff for him to play for me, and holy shit Masa was like The Taint Whisperer. After a few tracks he honed in on my preferred sound like a champ. Japanese rap from that era is basically what Golden Age rap should have become- boom-bap with a little bit of down-tempo flavor, where in the States around that time there was an underground backlash that started to push most everything into jiggy-er territory. I ended up spending almost a hundred bucks exclusively on Japanese rap singles. It was time to catch the bus, and I came up on more stuff than I was expecting, so I figured that was it for me.
It was about a three-hour bus ride to my other folks' in Tokushima. Japan feels like it's just one big borderless city- until you go to my wife's neck of the woods. They're kinda out in the cuts. But goddamn is it awesome. Their pad is sweet as hell. Traditional with the customary unused rooms, separate structure for my wife and her sister's rooms. Again, I had to try to wrap my head around the fact that they aren't "rich," because I couldn't imagine much of a nicer way to live. Her parents are the nicest people ever. We started gassing up my new friend Guts-san who we stayed with in Chigasaki, and they straight interrupted me to insist that no, I am Number One Son. That is what they call me. I wasn't going to argue. My wife must have been a major fucking handful earlier in life. We grilled meat on the dinner table as we watched Red 2. Quality time with the fam.
Day 5: The wife gave me a choice for my last day in Japan- go to Kyoto and do the cultural sight-seeing stuff with the rest of the tourists, or go back to Osaka and dick around some more. I figured there was no use trying to pretend I was seeing it all in my little whirlwind tour, and chose to go back to Osaka to do some more digging. It was a pretty damn good decision.
We went back to the first record store we had visited. The owner who we hadn't spoken to the day before flagged the wife down on the way in, I paid them no mind and dove into the crates. Ended up grabbing some more stuff, and on the way out the dude we met the day before popped out to have a word with us. Apparently we went over pretty damn well the day before, and that's what the owner was talking to the wife about. They said they're coming to SF to dig soon, and offered to send me a list of super rare semi-bootleg stuff they have to trade with me for stuff I have for sale. O RLY? So you're going to give me stuff that damn near doesn't exist in exchange for the nice bargains I snag for a couple bucks? Holla. Atcha. Boy. Living in the Upper Haight is finally good for something other than people trying to sell me weed at 9 AM.
From there we went back to the building Masa's shop was in to check out another shop he recommended. Another real nice guy running it, had some solid stuff. Him and the wife start talking and find out they're both from Tokushima. Then they figure out that they went to high school together and were only a year apart. Then they get around to the presumably fruitless "mutual friend" conversation. He hesitates to mention the one friend he has from The Bay because of course we wouldn't know her... and, of course, it's one of our friends. About that time Masa strolls over and joins the party. And this motherfucker asks us for our info so we can be his emergency US contact. I was absolutely blown away.
We took the train to our hotel near the Osaka airport where I was flying out in the morning. I was finally able to stuff my face izikaya-style once before I left. Flew out the next morning, timing worked perfectly to get some sleep on the plane and then land here in the late morning on Wednesday, putting me right back on my USA schedule with no issues whatsoever. Mid-day today I felt kinda wiped out though, and I'm pretty sure it's because I was still on an adrenaline high the last two days. The records I got from Masa are fucking amazing. And as I looked them up and added them to my Discogs I discovered that he hooked me up in a major way. He could have charged me double what he did.
I was also excited to have finally figured my life out. I'm fucking moving over there. That's where I'm growing old, where everybody is fucking nice all the fucking time. I asked the wife what field could I get into that would possibly allow that to happen. She didn't pause in the slightest and said "teach English." Lord knows, they need it over there. The biggest shock of my trip was how international and English-friendly Japan was not. I figured it was no biggie for our wide-eye asses to go over there on vacation. Nope. If you don't speak Japanese or have somebody to lead you around by the hand, do not go to Japan. Even the wife couldn't figure shit out. She had to ask for directions at every bus and train station. The fucking McDonalds menu was entirely in Japanese (I did not eat at McDonalds, I just checked for the sake of making this point).
The greatest place ever, and the best/only way in there just happens to be right up the alley of an underemployed Communications major. Initially I was pondering how much it would suck to sell all my records and go digital to move over there, because I'm confident I could find decent work as a DJ after seeing fucking DJ Sucker Sad Sack trainwrecking his ass off at the Stones Throw show. But Masa and the other dudes talked about shipping 1000 records over from the States at a time. If they're doing that and writing it off as the cost of doing business, what's really stopping me from shipping over 2000 when it's pretty much everything I own? Eating that cost sounds preferable to selling everything I have only to want to buy it again over there for exponentially more than I paid for it here. I've also been worried about how to cash out of the game when I'm done selling records... and I just met a handful of dudes who come to my block to buy records in bulk. Motherfucking booooooooom.
A week ago I had no goals, no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life aside from "get a real job." That's fairly depressing, and I don't do well with things I should do but don't want to. I think this trip saved my life. All thanks to my beautiful, beautiful hair.