Episode 24: Ika? No Way!
After close to 6 months of faithful service it was time for a
reward, kind of: the once-a-year "Nokia Way" seminar/party,
whose name can also be made into all sorts of funky anagrams.
(A Win, Okay?  Yow in Aak!  Yani Wako: I, a Yak Now?  Ikon Away!)
This year the event lasted 2 days and was held at Atami, a supposedly
posh but in reality somewhat run-down looking hot spring/beach resort
at the base of the Izu peninsula.  I'm told that I spent my 4th
birthday there, but my vivid recall of this is somewhat hampered by
the fact that all existing pictures of the event consist of candle
flames glowing in the darkness.

One thing I do remember, however, is that as a 4-year-old the ride
there took an interminable length of time and, until I looked at
the map, I was convinced that the place must have been in Kyushu
at the very least.  15 years later, the ride wasn't too bad, but
the seminars that started upon arrival were enough to bore a grown
man to tears.  An endless parade of balding Finns with a shared
pathological inability to pronounce soft consonants and dipthongs,
reading pre-scripted speeches consisting purely of impenetrable
marketing jargon and bad grammar.   After 8 hours of this,
I felt that I would have achieved great personal growth and
continuous learning by productizing one of those speeches into
a spiky wad of paper and optimizing a value-added service process
by forcefully ramming it up places that are better not discussed
in a publication such as this, intended for family consumption.
Conventional wisdom says that Japanese people value vagueness and
indirect approaches, instead of Western logic and directness,
but evidently this doesn't apply to management prep speeches.
Quite the contrary, it was gaijin who beat about the bush, while
the Japanese revealed the fun facts...  which, unfortunately,
I'd better not disclose to the general public.  Just the same,
sales are not exactly up to desired levels and neither is employee
satisfaction.  I didn't even get to answer the employee opinion
survey; us trainees and temporaries were judged not worthy.  Ericsson,
Motorola, Panasonic, Sony, what are you waiting for!?

Enough griping.  The event was held at Kinjokan ("Golden Castle House"),
a hideously expensive (Y20000/night with 5+ people per room)
quasi-ryokan which looked like the luxury hotel built in the 70s
that it is, even if the rooms do have tatami floors.  Dinner was
decent, the free-beer-squid-&-karaoke party that followed went
predicatably, but -- as usual -- the ofuro room held the most
attraction for me.  It wasn't much, consisting only of a big
swimming-pool sized bath with lukewarm water and the Mystery Pool.
It was the Mystery Pool that kept life interesting.  The first time
I bathed, it had nice chilly water, so I figured it was a chill-out.
So on the second time, after a nice long soak, I decided to cool
off, only to find that the water's temperature had risen to very
hot and very pleasant; everybody else thought it was too hot, but
I'm enough of a masochist to enjoy the sensation of your skin
cracking open and peeling off in large strips like a boiled hot dog.
At least that's what it felt like.  Delicious.  So in the morning I
figured I'd start off with a nice warm bath again...

  Legs calling Jani: This is pretty damn hot.  Really hot.
  I mean very, very hot.  YOW!  This is BOILING!  AAAAAAAAIIIIIIGHH!

I exited hastily, but my immolated legs had already turned the color
of my pet red plush lobster Lenin and they tingled for quite a while
afterward.  Next time, I'll bring my breakfast raw egg there and
cook it.

Meanwhile, at night, the first harbingers of Typhoon Rex had crept up
on Atami and started pounding down.  A small river runs between the
buildings of the hotel, and by morning the waters were swollen,
muddy, and rushing by at an immense speed.  The planned walk and
subsequent onsen soak were cancelled, and the others attendees were
trundled into buses and shipped off to get stuck in traffic for
hours on end as everybody else in the area headed for high ground.
Me, I opted instead for the MOA Museum of Art.

Kinjokan's garden

Entrance to MOA
After the escalator
I found the place striking on 3 levels.  First of all, architecturally
the museum itself is amazing.  Built into the side of a mountain,
the entrance is like a futuristic subway, endless escalators in
clinical white tunnels lit with amazing colors and in the largest hall
a stunning laser light show.  Just the same, the architecture
takes a back seat to the art in the main building, largely
devoted to the Japanese masters (Hiroshige! Utamaro!) but, as an
afterthought, a single room devoted to upstarts like Rembrandt and

But for me the most interesting component was the force behind all
this, the eccentric millionaire Mokichi Okada and the MOA association
that continues his work after his death.  Having made a killing
as a businessman before WW2, as a 40-year old millionaire he was
enlightened and -- I quote -- "discovered the principles on which
to create an ideal civilization".  He organized his thoughts into
the philosophy/religion of Shinsenkyo and devoted his considerable
talent, energy and fortune into achieving his aim, "the creation
of a world of beauty".  The first large-scale physical manifestations
of this effort are the MOA Museum and its predecessor, the Hakone
Museum of Art.

Sounds nice, eh?  It is, yet there was something sinister about
the place.  Only after several hours of wandering and reading the
tracts scattered about and handed out did I start to realize what
was amiss.  According to Okada, "Essentially, art must meet three
conditions: it must be true, it must be good, and it must be
beautiful."  And so it was.  The museum contained no works with
even a hint of falsehood, evil, or ugliness; no death, no old age,
no sickness, no sorrow, no hate, no pain, no lust.  The selection
of Buddhist art was carefully limited to Kannon and Jizo, both
figures of mercy and compassion; no fiery wisdom kings, no sensual
Tantric goddesses.  Utamaro is best known for his pornographic
shunga-e, but MOA had only tame portraits.  Post-Renaissance Western
art places a heavy emphasis on nudes, but there were precisely zero
on display.  The point was struck home when I exited, only to be
greeted by a massive stone relief carving, dating from the turn
of the century but a clear intellectual predecessor of Social

Realism and countless Laibach record covers, set in an equally
massive featureless tiled stone wall.  Ein Welt, ein Leitbild!

The hourly laser show

Replica of Noh theater

Workers of the world!
After returning home (by train -- I later found out that I managed
to slip past right after they cleared one landslide and right before
the next one closed the track for the rest of the weekend!) it
was time to continue with an entertainment that I'm sure Mr. Okada
would condone, Hyper Rich's monthly "Murder House" hardcore party
at Milk in Ebisu.  It was my first time there, and I paid my Y3500
to get in before I realized that Japan Gabber Network screwed up
and that Murder House was last week.  Instead of HC, I was treated
to live Japanese punk, in an extremely packed non-air-conditioned
basement decorated with black paint and lots and lots of Tetsuo-style
wire and rusty bent iron.  My orange shirt turned red from sweat
in minutes, and all I was doing was standing.  Just the same,
the night's main act, the aptly-named Ass Baboons of Venus, was...
intriguing.  The female singer(?) yelled entirely incomprehensible
lyrics into the mike and bounced a lot while a male gaijin guitar
player skillfully raped his instrument, stopping every now and then
to inform the audience that "denki to mizu wa abunai".  Had they
or the audience taken themselves seriously it would've been hideous,
but energy on both sides was infectious and in the end the concert
was a riot.  Or, rather, especially at the end: the duo was joined
on stage by a blonde goddess in full leather SM gear who proceeded
to, among other things, squirt chocolate sauce all over everybody
and stuff a peeled banana into the guitar player's sole article
of clothing, namely translucent skin-tone pantyhose.  Obviously
excited by this he proceeded to smear the choco-banana-mush into
his hair and over his face, then stage-dived into the wild crowd.
After endless encores and some cleaning the punksters left for a
well-deserved shower and the music changed to house -- and for
most part really good house at that.  I shed my shirt and started
bouncing like mad.  The floor was still packed, but unusually enough
the crowd was mostly female and with the population density
approaching rush-hour Yamanote there were some interesting moments.
But 'twas not to be, eventually the music changed to drum'n'bass
and around 4 I started the long stagger on foot back home.
Minutes after getting in bed Tokyo (and me along with it) was struck
with an earthquake large enough to derail a Shinkansen, 5.5 on
the Richter scale, but I was too tired to care and once the
shaking subsided I proceeded to sleep like a baby until 3 PM.
Just another typical day in Japan...

Kani wa yo,
crabmeister -j.

 Pictures | Next | Previous | Index