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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • November 14, 2006

     

    Reminiscing Tokyo Part 5: Gay Life (10/31-11/1/06)


    Someone came to me today and said all the pictures from Japan I have posted are too modest, too upright--that I'm too flourishing and cheery. Okay, I've been on vacation, how can I be *not* flourishing? Did he say I was "flowery" too? Let just say I have my share of naughty adventures but had opened my eyes to kinky gay scenes in Tokyo, which center around Shinjuku-2-Chome, an easy 10-minute walk from my hotel.


    After my shopping binge at the flagship Muji store--which advertises for "no brand, good product," I hopped on the next train back to Shinjuku for a night of clubbing and dancing. But I need to say a few words about Muji. It was developed in the early 1980s as a private brand of the giant Seiyu discount department store, offering an antidote to the rampant brand mania in the Japanese economic "bubble" period. A common sense approach defines the store aesthetics and sets the stage for a lesson in pared down retail design based on things like bulk packaging in plain, uniform containers. Under simple track lights, products are stored in unpainted wicker bins, on plain plywood shelving and unvarnished wood tables. In a tsunami of beige, the Muji message of unadorned simplicity makes itself explicit. I for sure left my mark at Muji and paid my due!

    No sooner had I walked out of Shinjuku Station did I spot two Japanese men holding hands making their way into 2-Chome (translates into 2nd lane). I thought they looked so sweet that they were completely oblivious to the worldly eyes of reproach to have publicly claimed their love. In Japan, gay men are so much more suppressed to publicly show affection for one another. Disguised under their suit and tie during the day, you won't run into many gay men even though at least 10% of the population is gay. When flashing blinking neon signs replace the petering sunlight at dusk, activities and hangouts of gay men limit only to a few chome (lanes) in Shinjuku, Ginza, and Shibuya.

    However meager or minisculed the gay scene might be, it doesn't necessarily cool down the heat of a gay dancing club. In fact, some of them might have got so kinky that many American guys find them a bit overwhelmed. Recently a superstar in the music industry dressed up in tight leather SM outfit for his round-the-country tour. His image became a new icon for gay men--who dressed up in tight harness and leather vest with boots and hit the dance floor of many clubs in Shinjuku.

    On the way to Arty Farty (my favorite bar) after the leather bar I ran into these guys who were campaigning for the gay magazine Badi, a monthly Japanese magazine for gay men. The title comes from the Japanese pronunciation of "buddy." Badi frequently has approximately 500-1000 pages (easily like a white page), including several pages of glossy colour and some black and white photographs and drawings of young, fit men in their teens and early twenties. Despite the pornographic pictures and stories, however, Badi is not a pornographic magazine. Badi appeals to a young market (and to admirers of younger men). It features fashion, health and relationship articles and community news and event listings. The guy on the right asked me if I was interested in a session of candid shots. Oh well...

    At Arty Farty, things were still slow because it was early. A few people were sitting at tables against wall engaging in low conversation against the droning of jazz music. The dance floor was empty and the bar-tender, a 20ish cub type with a paperboy hat, was busy wiping martini glasses for the night. I took a seat at the bar and chatted with him with my broken, choppy Japanese which I have long forgotten since I left the classroom in college.
    Anyway, Arty Farty is in Ni-Chome (2nd lane), right around the corner from Advocates Cafe, where I posted an entry from my mobile about a little earlier. Advocates closes around midnight on Sunday, so Arty Farty is always a convenient place to retreat to when they shut the doors at Advocate. I prefer Arty Farty over other bars is the all-you-can drink wine thing (like the beer blast at Advocates, except, well, with wine).

    This bar for boys and the guys who love them has been the gateway to Tokyo's gay neighbourhood, Ni-chome, for many a man for many a moon. Women are allowed only on weekends, and usually only with gay friends, and yes, apparently, they mean it. As the music picked up and people began to converge at the dance floor, spirits heightened around the bar. I met a few Caucasian men who were living and working in Tokyo. They usually came a couple nights just to chat over glasses of wine and checked out younger Japanese boys. They were somewhat taken aback and surprised when I started speaking to them in English fluently.

    I talked with them for hours and was oblivious of time's passing. It was 20 after midnight when I looked at my watch for the first time. I jotted down their contacts and e-mails on a crumpled piece of paper that was earlier a receipt from Muji and bid them goodbye.

    On the walk back to the hotel I spotted yet another curious sight--Hotel Nuts! Japan seems to never stop fascinating me! Hotel Nuts right in Shinjuku Ni-Chome along with all the gay bars and clubs. How appropriate eh?!

    6 Comments:

    Anonymous JiffyJim said...

    Love the pictures and narrative...glad I came for a blog visit to your site :-) Big Hug, Jim

    11/15/2006 12:19 PM  
    Anonymous Greg said...

    I've been avidly reading of your continuing adventures in Tokyo. It's interesting to consider the gay scene there, and how hidden it is. Rather like small town America, still. Here in Eugene one never sees affection between two men publicly, but most young gays are candid about their orientation with their friends and even their employers. There have been gay bars here and gay organizations for decades. Nowadays there is less dependence on bars for gay social life. In my salad days it was almost the only option for meeting other gay men. Now bar life has dwindled considerably from it's heyday in the late 70' and early 80's; I expect that's because there is less of a need for it.

    Hotel Nuts -- that's pretty delicious. Does "nuts" have some meaning in Japanese, or is that sign clearly and unambiguously intending the English meaning of the word? Apparently there is a Japanese magazine, a sort of comic book, called "Nuts"

    Also, I found your additional pictures of Hong Kong very interesting, especially the pictures and description relating to your hike to Stanley. With a little looking, and keeping your description in mind, I managed to find the location on one of the maps offered on Wikipedia. There is also a little article on the town.

    Like the new pics you included in Normalgay.com, especially the one in the shower with its beguiling peek at your "foliage." Very sexy. Some of the others show that you have a good set of legs -- a collateral benefit of all that hiking, I expect.

    Well, sounds like you had a very interesting time in Japan. Hope your "naughty" quotient went up a point or two.

    Take care.
    Hugs, Greg

    11/15/2006 2:42 PM  
    Blogger matty said...

    I, for one, am shocked by your absolute slutty adventures on the wild side of Japan! LOL!

    Now, come on! Where are your candid shots for Buddy magazine!?!?!!? Come on, Matt! Share!

    matty!

    ...sending you an email!

    11/15/2006 2:54 PM  
    Blogger cipriano said...

    Your blog is fascinating.
    My cat, and even my cat's FOOD is more gay than I myself am, and yet, I find your blog to be always fascinating, fun and frivolously fun... I always enjoy tuning in to a life that is far more exciting than my own.
    Great pics.
    Great fun.
    As King Agrippa said to the Apsotle Paul, "Ye almost persuade me." [Acts 26:28]

    11/15/2006 10:21 PM  
    Blogger Greg said...

    One of these days, I'm going to make it over to Japan and maybe even China. Two places I would really love to visit, and your pictures make Japan even more enticing!!

    11/16/2006 10:35 AM  
    Blogger matty said...

    Someone's about to have a birthday!!! Yay!

    11/17/2006 6:32 AM  

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