Reader's Comments home page
2-04-14 - Byron Allen Black wrote about Nanao Sakaki. Black lives in Jakarta now. We had some back and forth about Japan and Indonesia. These emails are from back in September. Always trying to catch up. - dc
Very much appreciated being able to read of your last visit with Nanao, as I was attempting strenuously to remember the various characters and places with which we interacted by in the early-to-mid-1960s. I was studying at Kyoodai in 1964, hated it, thought my professors were senile idiots (after having been invited to grad school there) and spent my time riding my Honda CB-72, practicing judo and chasing boys.
Dropped acid in a 6-mat room in Roppongi with some of those, what, akagarasu-zoku, folks. That doesn’t look right somehow. Anyway it’s close. We also went to Nagano to the commune, me and my Japanese lover, and I nearly died on Suwanose after wandering off high on acid and deciding I’d take a stroll up the volcano. Without telling anyone at all, of course. It was about 18 hours later, lost in the fog and bewildered as I came down, cold, that I saw one of the most welcome sights I’d ever spotted: a cow patty. Cow patty meant cow, cow meant path down.
Yoshi and the rest of the gang thought I’d done my go-rinju number.
This was in 1969, I believe, before Yamaha horned in and tried to turn Suwanose into some kind of stupid resort. The President of the Company was said to have erected a billboard which read GAIJIN HIPPI DETE IKE, thank you very much. Japan was going to hell in a handbasket then, and later when I taught video production in Osaka (1980-1984) it was a really cold, paranoid, robotic experience. All the good guys I’d known had split for other, less uptight, lands.
The Nanao piece dates from 2004. Where are you these days? I’ve been living in Jakarta since 1988, only visiting Japan occasionally (although my Japanese, dormant, erupts like a forgotten volcano after I’m there three or four days).
I also have a bunch of videos on YouTube (‘bakhirun’s channel’) and Vimeo (under my name).
Hiroshi's standing next to me. The other guys are his schoolmates, back in Kumamoto.
Thanks for sending this. Most interesting. I'm going to post it on
cuke.com on the Comments page where I don't post much anymore - maybe with
By way of explanation, in answer to your queries. Queries, tee hee.
I was of small assistance to an elderly Kyoodai prof in 1962 at the University of Texas and got invited to go to grad school there. Yep, that's how easy it was in those days. Bang, off to Kyoto.
When I got there (my second visit to Japan, after teaching teachers with ELEC in 1961) I found it was a shambles. There were no facilities whatsoever set up for international students, the teaching was slack and scatterbrained (alas), and my prof apparently senile. Thus, in protest I simply stopped going to classes and spent all day in the University's judo club, where I was accepted (with puzzlement, mostly) and met a guy a year younger than me (21) from Kumamoto - Kyushu danji and all that la la stuff. Hiroshi Jyo was an undergrad, wearing his black uniform and acting stolid.
We became great pals and he moved in with me, in a geshuku in Otsu, at Setagawa no Karahashi (one of those historical spots Japanese all seem to know about - probably learnt it in grade school). The landlady was Mrs. Noguchi, alias Mrs. Nosy-guchi, but of course it was a more innocent time and all saw us as a cuddly frisky pair of college kids hanging out, which we were, with nary a thought of tickling one another's pickles.
I remember that during my year in Kyoto they were breaking ground nearby for the Tomei Expressway AND the Shinkansen, at the same time, which was a sign of the inexorable march to progress / doom of Japan. First time I've been able to use the word "inexorable" today, and it's already 12:15.
We eventually traveled back to Texas together - I was in grad school there, studying linguistics - and even went down to Colombia for a year as a team, when I got a job setting up an ESL program under a Rockefeller Foundation grant. Writing all this phantastigorical history from the thin & penurious vantage point of 2013, I marvel. Everything was given to me on a platter. Money was easy. times were easy and you simply assumed you could move around, get whatever job you wanted and do well.
Hiroshi had to go back to school in Japan, where unbeknownst to me he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease and hospitalized. When I eventually arrived once more in Tokyo (June 1966), after completing an extremely dangerous motorcycle racing tour (Isle of Man Senior TT), the first thing I did was phone the hospital in Kyoto, where a perplexed gentleman peremptorily informed me "Oh he died yesterday". Typical haphazard Japanese crisis management, if I do say so.
I also recall the two of us showing up one occasion on Meredith Weatherby's doorstep in black motorcycle leathers, having ridden there on my Honda 250. He said that when he opened the door he thought two deep-sea divers had come to visit, ha. Nice guy, pleasant visit. Unlike Mr. Grand Asshole Poet Gary Snyder (but I think there may have been a hohophobic alarm go off in the gent's head, when we met, him bathed in cats and me in leather). You know the story, Rough Tough Cream Puff, he-man mountain man rugged poet of the woods, yadda yadda. Ain't odd like Auden. I'm sure he had adjusted his public stance on the matter in conformity with more tolerant times, ahem. (Careerist) (I'm a careenist.)
So in 1968, on a subsequent visit, working as Japanese Correspondent for CYCLE WORLD Magazine, I met Yoshi, who was about three years younger than me (as one gets older, one's pals get younger, I muse, watching Glenn Greenwald and his Brazilian pal embrace in the airport, after him getting busted by the spooks at Heathrow...). If you catch any typos in this malarkey excuse me, as I am typing from inside a mosquito net and the LCD is outside. The little bastards are ferocious, and even though the locals won't abide by the nets ("too hot") I find it hard to sleep as the tiny devils whine around my ears.
The relationship with Yoshi was quite nice, as I moved into his old farmhouse home in Totsuka-ku, Yokohama. His father had died, his younger brother was turning into a Jiminto ward-heeler of the worst kind (the youngest brother eventually to follow us to Vancouver, Canada) and the FBI / CIA hot on my tail: I had eaten my draft card with catsup on it, while a raging radical perfesser in Fresno.
I was pleasantly surprised to see this bit of ancient fury published:
My god it's true: the web forgets nothing. How many illegal wars ago was THAT?
So it was eventually Vancouver for me, and ten years of art & stuff there, before I moved to Japan again (1980-1984). I find that three years on Moonbase (nickname for Japan, along with "Stiff City") is about my limit.
This email is turning into a rather long meander, as the filthy Ciliwung meanders outside my veranda and the monkeys are dreaming... of WHAT...
Years later, I'm online in East Jakarta, and I get curious about our LSD excursion to Suwanose. I also posted a little "video response" to a tape on the island:
Lezby penpals, you and me. I will also try to visit Bali during your whirlwind tour there. Don't crash the airplane. It's a joke, son, I say, A JOKE. (I'm channeling Foghorn Leghorn.)
Jakarta is really no prize to visit, unless you have business here, but Indonesia is great to go poking around in. Check out this.
I spend much of my time up at my Lust Palace in Parakansalak, yon side of Gunung Sukhoi I mean Salak. Yes, I continue to poke. Almost 73 and still a poker, poker / player, sigh.
I've often thought that if I ever went to live in Japan again (highly improbable but not impossible) I'd live in Kagoshima / Miyazaki / Kumamoto. I like the values of the people in "old Japan". Last long stint there was in Osaka. Too grabby, sleazy, selfish. Listen to me. I sound like an old fart. I am an old fart.
I live with mate of ten years Katrinka in San Rafael, CA.
Katrinka? Check this link
Think we're going to Bali in a couple of months.
Lombok (next door) highly recommended. Bali = gone to hell in a handbasket. Swarms of fat drunk low-rent Australians, filthy beaches, insane traffic and pollution. Tragic beyond belief.
All most intersting.
I find Katrinka on that page (Google image search) but the results will
differ by time and who searches
Have enjoyed your emails and watched and enjoyed some of your videos and
blogs, plan to see more, and Katrinka and I saw some others about Bali and
Lombok. I remember the plastic in the creeks from 92 and it looks like
they've not dealt with that and it's a big problem - plastic and sewage etc.
But I still think it would be good to go there for a bit - especially so
Katrinka can experience what there is of Bali that she'd enjoy. When I
travel alone I stay at the cheapest places but she is more picky. Still
she's an old hippy from the sixties like us so I'm sure we can find a
compromise that won't be too expensive. We plan to stay near awful Kuta for
a few days because there's a Bikram yoga studio there and we do that even
though he's not a cool guy. We plan to have reservations near Kuta for a
couple of nights so we can figure out what to do next. I like your Lombok
suggestion. Maybe you have more or maybe a contact on Bali who might have
If I can get over to Bali during your time there, I'll take you for a visit to the home of friends in a small countryside village on the road to Tanah Lot - known them since the early 1990s. Authentic old-fashioned Balinese banjar.
During my involvement with a local NGO in 2010 I traveled in a small group over to Sumba Island - that's a thrill. Like remote island cultures everywhere, its being cut off from mainstream trends have resulted in some very curious aspects of culture. Sumba used to be called "Sandalwood Island" but that's been stripped to the bone - to expensive to resist the temptation.
What they do have is the tiny sandalwood horses - everywhere - and some great beaches. I'm not a surfer but this is apparently a surfers' paradise (West Sumba anyway).
I would like to do Flores as well, some time in the near future.
Thanks for the comments. I find that my motivation to complete video edits and post works has slacked somewhat, as the only work which has attracted viewers is a rather inconsequential documentary on a local acupressure tradition.
It gets the "let's look at the weirdest video we can find" vote, alas.
I should also share with you the observation that Mike Goldberg, who settled into Tokyo around 1985, a year or so after I left my last long-term stay (teaching video production to unmotivated rich lunks at Osaka Photographic College & Daycare),
Young, frisky (horny) and innocent, after my first short visit to Japan in the early 1960s I was as enamored of the culture and people as, say, Lafcadio Hearn. It was the tail-end of "old Japan", and there was still the "gaijin ni yowai" sensibility among people, so they lowered their guard to friendly, frisky young foreigners like yours truly.
Let's face it: I was spoiled by their hospitality.
As the years went along and the visits multiplied I came to realize that it was just that: "hospitality", for an increasingly unnecessary guest. As the wealth surged the people (particularly the young) became ruthlessly selfish and money-hungry, slaves to fashion, while they were being mentally brutalized by a totalitarian educational system.
By the 1970s I had my full awakening, and abandoned any thought of living and working permanently there. For most of us it is next to impossible, unless you set your horizons on being an English teacher, bartender, phony pastor for make-believe weddings, hooker, whatever. In terms of being given a fair chance to compete in Japanese culture, business and society in general, the exclusion is complete.
Look at poor Mike. Nearly 30 years there, linking up with foreign producers to shoot footage where possible, married to a Japanese wife, doing his best and he's barely surviving. He mentioned to me that he had to let his one assistant go last year; of course times are tough but here's an international video producer / pioneer with a great track record, but he just can't make it in an exclusionist cultural matrix. Now he may have reverted to the "Jew suffering in the ghetto" mentality, because you do encounter rebuffs, subtle and otherwise, at every turn.
Nor can you "go native" as I foolishly tried to do early on, wearing yukata and geta, studying language and customs fiercely, being nice to everybody. At best you're appraised with amusement as a performing monkey.
Best to keep your distance.
I understand but I had fun.
Wrote a book about it.
BBNow there's a mild surprise. Looks like he's turning into a LIFER.
That was the derogatory term for the gaijin you would see strutting around Kyoto in his formal kimono, coming back from the tea ceremony or on his way to his calligraphy class, perfectly imitating the Japanese-shinshi walk as gentlemanly as a keto is capable of.
Channeling Lafcadio Hearn.
Objects of derision. "Hey pal, can it. You'll never belong, no matter how hard you try, and the harder you try the more they'll despise you for it."
"Oh and have a nice day."
| home | What's New Contact DC Shunryu Suzuki |