Friday, March 09, 2007

absolutely edo (tokyo)

Tokyo, like any other huge city, is bustling with people going everywhere. Every face has it's own story; every pair of shoes it's own complaints and fears in life. The downtrodden are many. Long faces reveal the power of the city. It can suck the life out of a man. People who look like they're tired of it all. Nameless hoards that swell and subside organically down the streets and through the stations. Everyone is under the aegis of the rush, and the omnipresent yet invisible energy it creates.

This collective stress comes out at night. The train stations are most exciting after 11:30 pm, an hour before the transportation arteries of the city close. After this a cross-town cab ride is a privilege only affordable to people whose name is on lists. During this hour, Tokyo is drunk, loud, multi-colored, in groups, laughing, soaking up the infectious glee of a Saturday night.

About the clubs we went to on Friday and Saturday night, Womb and Space Lab Yellow:

Space Lab Yellow is tucked deep inside an indistinguishable apartment building off a side street near Aoyama. On the outside, it's a sleepy, mundane building of gray brick with a small car garage. Inside, down two flights of stairs, it's a favorite stop for DJs who play in a different country each week. Just one guy stands outside, in front of a unmarked door, opening it for the people who slowly filter in. The effort to keep it exclusive were bracingly effective: we entered around 1:00, prime club time, and if we didn't have our friend Maru pointing to the door we would have never found it. No people outside, no noise, no nothing.

It was similar outside Womb, except at Womb there is a sign. Yet 12 inch by 6 inch dimly lit letters are not exactly proportional for a club that can fit two thousand people. The sign is mounted at the entrance area, an airport-like tunnel that takes you subterranean and winds around three corners, until you finally reach the entrance. Then you hear the thumping and get the same feeling in your stomach you get when you're a kid about to ride a roller coaster.

Let me go back to the outside of these two places. You're told that clubs in Tokyo are intentionally hard to find. You don't know what that means until you go there. Inside these clubs there are 6 million watts of energy–electric and kinetic and phonic and human–drilling bass tones and radioactive substances through thousands of bodies. Outside you can hear the hum of vending machines across the street. When you leave Womb at a modest 6:00 am, there is a troop of finicky club staff peppered from the door down the street for two blocks. With lightening urgency, they "shhhh" anyone who talks over whisper level. Keep in mind that at this point your ears are so shattered that you can't really hear anything, and the early morning sun makes your eyes feel possum-like.

It makes no sense–sure didn't then, and still doesn't know. There are so many mysteries, questions, curiosities that arise everywhere you go. "What does that sign say" or "why is that guy have on four pairs of shoes" or "how many colors is her hair" or "did he find those clothes on another planet"?

Enigmatic, energizing, magical, mind-boggling. I love it. I didn't want to sleep for fear that I'd miss something. It was 4 days/3 nights of energy-boosting fun that will blast me to a month from now just thinking about it. I'll go back there in late March when my mom comes to Japan.

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