Mr. Wake

Are you understand?

Location: Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan

Saturday, November 10, 2007

White River, Black Store

I drove up to the Shirakawa house this weekend. I have about 17 minutes of work that I can do at the factory here, and I hadn't actually been to my house in more than three months. In that time my knowledge of kanji has improved enough to notice that the choice of towns the exit ramp gives me mean "White River" and "Black Magnet". I go to White River (Shirakawa).

On the way in I stopped at the Black Store for no particular reason. The Black Store is a large, two-story box painted black roof to road, with the items it sells in plain, white letters. They sell so much stuff, the letters take up most of the surface

Plastic figures:

Collectible cards:

Fake guns:

Fishing poles:

Hemp products:

$800 jean jacket:

In addition I found console games, snowboards, stereos, and comics. And something else.

On the second floor, in the back of the DVD section is a curtain hanging down to about shoulder level. The curtain says something about you. If you go past, you have made an effort to cross a barrier to enter this part of the store. You didn't "accidentally" find yourself here. You made a choice, and here you are. This is the Library of Alexandria of J-porn.

The aisles are narrow and winding, and there are enough of them that I actually got lost. Every corner I turned was a another wall of smiles, uniforms, long silky black hair, and ... other things. There are apparently few restrictions in Japan regarding the visual techniques a producer of DVDs may use on their boxes to encourage sales. And if for some reason the cover leaves you hazy regarding its contents, you can always check out one of the many video screens tucked away in this fleshy labyrinth. I doubled back, retracing my steps, but no. The curtain back to the world of Bruce and Angelina wasn't there, just another wall of videos or comics or photo books.

What's the least erotic music you can think of? Did you pick the theme to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? It twinkles on an endless loop from one of those claw grabber games that are so popular here. But I remembered passing the thing on my way in. It was full of wrapped DVDs, so you don't know what your are going to end up with. I followed the song past the checkout -- a curtain hangs down to just above the counter top, that a purchase may be conducted in secret -- and I was back in familiar territory. Bruce and Angelina. No smiles here. Intensity, disaster, and zombies.

I had done a calculation on the back of a vinyl nurse's uniform I found. 75 units, each with 10 shelves. A shelf could be jammed with 35 videos, but most had a few boxes that let their perky, young performers face the front. Let's say 20 vids per shelf. Show times ranged from 60 minutes to 4 hours (I tip my hat to you, sir). Let's say 90 minutes.

15,000 videos. 22,500 hours. If it was your job to watch, and you worked for 40 hours per week, it would take more than 10 years to enjoy the Black Store's inventory of skin flicks. And that's assuming they stop making the stuff.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Last year for Halloween, while me and Wife's cousin were at work, our wives took their kids treak-or-treating. Neither one had ever done this before.

At about 2:00 in the afternoon the kids met up in costume and headed out into the neighborhood. But you can't just go walking around in Japan asking people for candy. So Wife had made arrangements with some friends and family. Trick-or-treating visits were scheduled. One of the visits was to Wife's great aunt who is getting on in years and likes visits from the little kids. But her memory isn't what it used to be. She usually doesn't remember who the kids belong to, and we couldn't count on her to snack up the children. So Wife had to go to her aunt's place ahead of time to give her the treats to give to the children. She was up late the night before assembling snack packs in theamed bags. No Smarties and Mary Janes. Or those orange and black de-toothers whose manufacturer was too embarrassed to brand. Each kid got a professional assortment with a little toy. With the little packs pre-delivered the party arrived at the aunt's house, and she promptly invited everyone in for tea. Wife found the bags she had hidden there before and had her aunt distribute. This was the great aunt's first Halloween, in fact she may not have even heard of it before. She wasn't quite sure what to make of the costumes and thought Aika was a ninja. That is one of those little tidbits that reminds you that you're in a foreign country. A 94-year-old woman sees a 1-year-old kid in an all black costume and ninja is the first thing that pops into her head. At 94 she may very well remember plagues of ninjas from her youth, her mother tirelessly shooing the secretive little assassins away with a broom. After enjoying tea and cakes and the kids making a mess of things, everyone came back to our house for a party.

I was very disappointed when I came home from work and found I had missed all of it. All of this was done by the very non-scary light of day. But at least I got the pictures.

Last year Aika was Darth Vader. This is most likely my favorite costume that she will ever wear.

This is the part where she tries to convince Piglet to join her and together they will rule the galaxy. Or it might be the part where she tells Piglet to take off her mask that she may see him with her own eyes. Aika was, frankly, terrible with the lines, and it was hard to tell.

Last year went so well that they decided to do the same thing this year. Oddly, Aika was too big to be Darth Vader, so she went as a witch. Her enjoyment of headgear made very little progress over the past year, but enough to take a picture.

She's nabbed a shoehorn. She has the power to grant wishes as long as you wish that it were easier to put on your shoes.