Jenny Famewhore

Tokyo reverie

Posted in Tokyo by Jenny Famewhore on September 25, 2009

On top of the world, Tokyo 2009

My emotions are so bound up with this city and especially magnified now that I have left it (unavoidable human feelings stemming from retrospectivism and nostalgia.) I feel electrocuted when I see a photo floating out of nowhere on facebook of Heiwadai, the quaint radish-valley where my hovel was; chancing upon a picture in a Taiwanese model’s blog, of her posing in front of Shinjuku station and wishing I could take her place; walking past Book-off, Chiyoda sushi, and Beard Papa in New York; Tyler describing to me an article in Maxim about yakuzas running the red light district in ikebukuro (10 min. from my ‘hood); or meeting a friend made in Japan in an American context. It triggers a slippery slope of memories: of riding the eerily punctual trains everywhere (only made un-punctual by the occasional “human accidents/人身事故”), of the language in its many forms (casual speech, formal speech, japanglish), but most overwhelmingly, of the times I spent with the people there (the Finns, the Americans, the U.K. corner, the Frenchies, the westernized Japanese youth) rendezvousing in the public parks outside Sophia University and in Kichijoji, karaoke bars in Shinjuku, and izakayas (Japanese-style bars) in Shibuya– being young, beautiful, crazy, and in the moment.

The irony is that when I first arrived in Tokyo, I was constantly comparing its gastronomic landscape to New York’s– how it didn’t have proper pizza, bagel, and how decent italian food could not be found (What is tobiko and nori doing in my spaghetti? Why does my spaghetti come from a box imported from America?) Why is Chinese food 1500 yen ($15) and so inferior to New York’s Flushing (a mecca of Chinese stuffs) when Tokyo is a short 3 hour flight away from the source? Why does demiglace used by restaurants to top off the “hambagu” with rice come from a metal can and packaged by Heinz? Why does an apple cost 500 yen ($5) and a watermelon 3000 yen ($30)?

Unfortunately, I spent my first month or so in this querulous, close minded haze until my friend, an American expat living in China, verbally slapped me out of my self-righteous stream of blahblahblah about the superiority of New York’s food culture. Then the clouds parted etcetera. Sample enlightenment:


midnight walk to fruit stand in Phuket

“I want mangoes. There aren’t mangoes around here worth my yen.”

“Fool. Go to Thailand dude. Just take a one week trip and gorge yourself.”

Ok. — fast forward a few months, I fly to Thailand… Finding myself in fruit paradise, where all mangoes come to die, slurping on mango shakes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and fourth meal. Brilliance. Everyone needs to go to food counseling now and then.

But his other advice was more sensible and rocked my stubborn mindset straight to the core (direct quote minus all the cussing in between):

“If you’re trying to recreate an American lifestyle there you will find it takes a lot of effort. But why would you want to do that? Just enjoy the great Japanese food that is both ubiquitous and cheap.”


3 Responses

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  1. theresidentartist said, on September 25, 2009 at 1:16 AM

    wow. I envy the time you’ve spent in Japan, living in another culture. That’s so wild, how you’d immersed yourself in it, and yet, when you first arrived, you’d looked at everything in the typical derisive light any NY-er might do upon first glance at Japanese (or any other) culture.

    Lovelovelove this entry. You write better than I could ever do on a good blogging day!

  2. maiko said, on September 26, 2009 at 11:50 PM

    dont u miss the food stands?! and the mangos! god the mangos…!!

  3. Jenny Famewhore said, on October 2, 2009 at 4:33 PM

    Jess: Thanks so much for your encouragement! It means a lot 🙂 Don’t belittle your own writing– it’s brilliant and I enjoy reading your insights on the theater world.

    Maiko: I dream about it every night.

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