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Psychological Transit Notes, Kyoto

Four days in September, I lived in the refurbished remains of a 1970s apartment building, constructured for a long-gone working class in Kyoto. I laundered my clothes in its cellar, I slept beneath its raw concrete ceilings. I witnessed the strongest taifun through its latticed windows, the rain slashing around Hōkanji, which stood unimpressed, as it has forever. Within the howl, all fell silent. I remember overlooking Higashiyama, its houses made from aging wood (noticing how its particular gradient is determined by age and exposure), the trees and rocks – as if all this was my home. As if it had years of my life to emblazon itself into my brain. A concrete box in a taifun, my love and me inside, and our clothes hanging to dry on an extendable fishing rod across the room. A day to itself, in this year of change and momentum (at RC Hotel, Kyoto).

One of the most significant things about the urban fabric of Japanese metroplexes is the number and cultural integration of 7-11, Family Mart and other convenience stores: Multi-purpose hubs, more or less 24 hours per day, for all kinds of social strada. They provide grocery shopping assistance to the elderly, free Wi-Fi to tourists, wastebins and agreeable cheap food to everyone. The Famima entrance jingle is one of my strongest and most present memories from my times spent in Tokyo and other japanese cities. These stores cry for ethnographic inquiry beyond William Gibson’s inquisive modelling of the Lucky Dragon franchise in All Tomorrow’s Parties.

Die Kieswege und der Geruch nach Zeder, moosgrüne Steinlaternen, gewundenes Holz, glimmendes Licht in ausgehöhlten Bambusrohren, überhaupt: Bambus. Rinzai-Rot-Orange. Wetteiferndende Zikarden an den Ufern jedes Rinnsals. Das dichte, schweigende Moos entlang sorgsam angelegter, gleichsam planvoll gewachsener Blickachsen.

Walking the streets of Osaka by myself after nightfall, immersed in neon light and concrete, the 1980s endlessly reflected long since their time has ended. I have no purpose here, other than keeping momentum, researching myself in alley corners. 2015 seems a long time ago, I think, as I head back to Dōtonbori to meet a woman under battered Ezaki Glico, research unfinished and thoughts unthought.

Psychological Transit Notes, Across Japan

There was one of the perfect silences in the 100-Meter Gallery of Odawara Art Foundation. You know, the considered kind that includes a faint hum of air condition running at its lowest setting. There was no movement of air. This is what can be learned from the Japanese: Silence. The silence of deferring to the dao of all things, while doing what has to be done by playing one’s part, elegantly. The silence of recognizing each thing’s and each being’s part. The silence of doing nothing when all is done.

Watching the slim, immaculate fingers of the JR East clerk fly over a landscape of unlabeled, but color-coded hardware keys, each press producing the kind of satisfying mechanical click keyboard afficionados have been paying substantial sums for, I wonder whether his fingertips have already flipped open to reveal a set of spidery steel rods, inputting data with superhuman speed and precision. The clerk is wearing a short-sleeved grey button down, embroidered with the vaguely brutalist JR logo. His physiogonomy, attention and complete being could not be more focused. Around him, an assortment of laminated scraps of paper, highlighted katakana phrases, flyers and maps is taped into a Monet-esque array of tranquil color. The dynamic silence of faint office sounds surrounds us.

Everything is permanently going down. The only thing left for us to care about is how we and every thing goes down. This is why leaving small stone mounds along the hiking trail matters. This is why making good rice bowls matters. This is why optimizing your CSS grid matters. Matters of grace are actually this: matter. It’s in defiance of the universe that we apply attention and care to small things. It’s a gesture, and gestures are all we have. Put care and love into every move, in defiance of your insignificance. Create matter by claiming it emphatically and carefully. (On mossy rocks halfway between Hongu-Taisha and Yunomine-Onsen)

You look so grim, Craig said.

Psychological Bar Reviews (4)

Everybody and everything at Schuhmann’s Tagesbar appears to make an effort to contribute to a specific script, emulating mid-century day-drinking and one of the later iterations of the Leisure Suit Larry series of computer games at the same time.

Regulars line the bar on stools upholstered in oxblood leather, having crémants and trying to coax nightlife credibility out of the well-informed and strategically tattooed bar staff. The latter communicates like a disciplined sports team – orders are shouted across the room in shorthand language, matching requested drinks with staff members closest to the required appliance or bottle.

There is a short moment of silence, slightly moving air and long gazes. A party of three enters, surveying the establishment, a shaggy dog in tow. A short tour of the sparsely populated interior seems to end inconclusive and unsatisfactory: „There is no place for us here“, one declares as the group exits stage left.

The same moment, two women in sand-colored robes enter, their faces veiled. Nonetheless, they are recognized and treated to the usual: two slices of apple pie and two iced chocolates.

Underneath it all, faint bossa and tropicana muzak is heard and immediately forgotten, evaporating over ruby-colored drinks and a dazzle of miniature canapés, all traces of crust surgically removed from soft toast slices. Time slows in the most pleasant way.

Das Raunen der Stadt am Kanal. No sightlines, all sound, Wärme wie spät übergezogene Baumwolle in der Sommernacht, so ungewohnt auf den Armen. Alles Samt/Wildenbruchstrasse. (May 29-30th, 2017)

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