30 October 2006


Imagine Tokyo or Osaka downtowns' streets at any time of day and night: busy people commuting, shopping, walking at high speed up and down arcades full of neon signs, and noise screaming from the Pachinko parlours and advertising posts. You're going with the flow, kidnapped by this high energy tempo and everything looks so alive. Now, imagine you have to wait for something, someone, maybe with a couple of hours to kill, your home is too far and you feel sleepy... You want to relax but a cafe is not the right place: you won't feel quiet enough. What you need is to be alone, to get some intimacy.
Well, pragmatic as it is, the Japanese society has the answer: a place where you can sleep, read mangas, eat, smoke, watch TV, DVDs, use the Internet, play videogames.. sometimes even take a shower.. and... it's not a hotel. It's a space that has not a particular name, a place exclusively japanese. I haven't seen that anywhere else in the world, yet have desired it so much. I would call it the most ultimate transitional urban space. It generally signals itself as a Manga and Internet Cafe. Open around the clock, it offers the customer for around 500 Yen/hour (3,5 euros) a private booth with a computer inside. The chair is always comfortable and depending on the sophistication of the place, you can also get a sofa, a massage chair or a sleeping chair (it's a bit more expensive then). There's usually background music, classical or new-age to help you relax. You have a pair of headphones if you want to listen to your own stuff. Consequently, you can't make noise and therefore you're asked to turn off phone calls!
Japanese cities have many transitional urban spaces: a wide diversity from the Pachinko parlours where you can play all day and night long the same game (dropping tiny balls into a tiny hole)to Love hotels where you can rent a room by the hour.
But the Manga reading place fits my needs perfectly. I'm currently writing this blog from the most sophisticated one I've come across, in the heart of busy downtown Kyoto. It's the "FUJIYAMA CAFE Relaxing", worth a visit if you come here...


25 October 2006

Tokyo notes

After a couple of days and just as my jet-lag fades off, the sun makes thankfully the brightest of appearance to accompany my steps into my first visit to a Japanese garden during this trip, Rikugien. It is actually my first experience of a Japanese garden with the awareness of meaning, context and history as I researched them over last year.
It was lovely and something of an explorative adventure. This Edo-period garden has its contemplative moments but it's not a Zen garden at all, it's rather playful with its hidden or dark corners, climbing spots and bridges to cross. What was also fun was to actually observe the people observing the garden. A note I should keep in mind for my 'Abstract' project.
Apart from that, coming back to Tokyo is much easier than I thought at first. It's the same practical city, where the fact that you don't understand a word has absolutely no importance (except maybe if you want to avoid specific food in restaurant). Like a fish in the water as we say in french, I feel like Tokyo is going to be one of those cities where I'll always end up coming back, like London and New-York.


10 October 2006

My World Is Empty Without You

On Sunday afternoon, I woke-up from my Nuit Blanche with a plaintive male voice in my head singing the words 'My world is empty without you'. This line comes back to my mind every now and then and I wanted to check in my music collection who it was from. But I just couldn't find it. It was driving me mad that I had no idea who was singing it, all the while the song kept playing in my head. My only clue was a 60's type of arrangement.
Obsessively, I searched the web but no names that came up were matching my idea. 'The Supremes' were mostly associated with the title song but I couldn't imagine them singing it. Yet, as I finally heard a sample, I realised it was the same song. Further along, I discovered a version from José Feliciano whom I never heard of before and I was relieved to see that it was the very object of my quest. But how and when and where I came across it in the first place, I've no idea. I'm surprised it stuck in my mind so strongly as well without listening to it regularly, if not at all. I'm even more surprised I never heard until now The Supremes' original version which is a total masterpiece and probably their best song. Both versions are completely different but equally seductive.
It's another signature from the magic Motown trio of authors Holland-Dozier-Holland.
In the same line of the Sixties sensual atmosphere but on the other side of the Atlantic, I discovered an Italian song, thanks to Salvatore, whose main phrase "Tu me faí girar come fossi une bambola" doesn't leave your mind quiet.
YouTube comes again to the rescue, offering us two TV treasures of the Sixties, a time when funky hairdos and kinky boots were made for singing. You can guess that they've been playing in loop on my computer for the last 3 days.

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