For a change I'm not going to stand on my soapbox and preach about DRM or Thinking Critically  (but notice how I linked to both of those posts ;) ). I'm going to attempt to be a bit sentimental this time around even though sentimentality is not one of my strong suits.  Lately I've been feeling the pinch when it comes to my creativity which happens from time to time for all writers.  In times like these I think about being somewhere else.  As much as I love DC (there is nothing like summertime in DC), it doesn't really do it for me in terms of inspirations.  Pound for pound it is the busiest city in the world and obviously the seat of American power.  Yet I don't get the same creative rush sitting at an outdoor cafe near the Washington Harbor, or running on the bike path along the Potomac as I would in Tokyo or Osaka.  It's got nothing to do with which is a better city.  It has everything to do with which is a better city for my specific creative faculty.  Washington DC is beautiful city.  It's full of Federal style houses, and Colonial style houses, turn of the century row houses, and even a splash of moder urban color.


         I've never felt quite at home among all that.  As a writer, often of cyberpunk, I never felt quite at home until I went to Tokyo.  Sure, it's obvious and convenient and I've never settled for those.  On every trip to Japan I was never conveniently roaming around Ginza or Shibuya, or Shinjuku.  I always felt the need to explore the areas that were off the beaten path.  Places in Asagaya, Koenji, and Shimo-Kitazawa.  It wasn't until I explored the tiny little city of Koenji (considered by many to be the birthplace and current epicenter of the Manga culture), that I discovered a little piece of creative home.  One night while wandering up and down the Chuo line I came across it.  From the window of the train, high up on the overpass, I could see a little cluster of life and lights.  Most stops on any given train line look this way from the overpasses.  Koenji was no different. Until I decided to disembark and walk around.  I spent part of the day at a Mister Donuts, with my laptop.  Uneventful for sure, and the Cafe Au Lait was simply awful (the Japanese do a lot of things well.  Coffee isn't one of them).  It was already late afternoon when I arrived, and after finishing some notes on a short story and sending off a few emails, the sun had set.  I decided to explore.
        Directly to the south of Mister Donut, on the other side of the train station is the area that was of particular interest to me.  It was barely noticeable in the day time, probably because all of the food stalls and shops were closed when I passed earlier.  Now there as massive alleyway alive with lights and new activity.  I didn't need to travel far down the side street to get somewhere I thought I might like to be.  There were two yakitori joints near the corner of the side street and the main drag.  I chose the one closest the corner because there was a rather loud New Zealander at the adjacent stand, wearing and All Black jersey and spilling his beer as he spoke and gesticulated.  Despite the fact that I could hear him quite clearly from the adjacent stand, I wanted a shot at at least avoiding a confrontation.  Drunken Australian rules football fans are a bad mix in my estimation unless you happen to be a fellow fan or a footballer yourself.  The "izakaya" I chose was little more than an enclosed bar with outdoor seating consisting of wooden planks resting on milk crates as a table, and additional milk crates as seats.  This is not something you would expect to see amongst all the neon lights, plasma screens, and interactive displays that Tokyo is known for.  Wooden planks and milk crates?
         I suddenly felt a little like Harrison Ford in "Blade Runner", in the scene where he's huddled under the awning of a noodle stand in the rain.  As the hours passed the traffic didn't diminish at all and the whole area smelled of cooking chicken and spilled beer which, along with some other fluid, was draining into a sewage grate several feet away.  A young girl of 19 or 20 took my order and spent the next few hours bringing me food and beverages.  I was content to take in the sights and smells.  Descriptions of scenes and story lines were rolling around in my head.  It was so fucking cyberpunk.  What better way to fuel the construction of a scene, many scenes, for a cyberpunk story than by sitting at an outdoor izakaya in Tokyo?  It was a grubby watering hole in the heart of a minor city in Tokyo, surrounded by all the technological trappings of a futuristic Mega city.  The girl, with her dyed copper hair and feigned indifference could have been any disenfrachised youth in a post apocalyptic dark future (a la "Akira")  Even the idiot New Zealander (who had spent a steady five minutes extolling the virtues of bedding east Asian women), added a random realism to the whole scene.
        The street level faire, absent modern Ginza restaurants was the equivalent of Federal style homes.  I was sitting in the midst of the cities natural evolution from Meiji era food stalls and tea houses into wooden planks, and milk crates.  In all the times I've been to Japan, I only ever went to one proper restaurant and it was dreadful.  And in Osaka the izakayas and the outdoor stalls are even better than they are in Tokyo.  Eating out 3 nights a week for months gave me plenty of opportunities to create and store creative hay for later use.  And I did.

 

About the author
J. Austin Yoshino
Author: J. Austin Yoshino
Editor-In-Chief
That's what I do; I read and I know things.
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