In January 2007 I did a one-month residency in Tokyo, Japan, working with the architect-artist Megumi Matsubara of Assistant on our new album (‘Green Winter’) as well as preparing and doing our performance at the Studio K gallery in Kamata, Tokyo. This is a small excerpt of all my vivid and heartfelt experiences that I had during my residency and which I actually managed to write down. There’s more to life than what the social media can convey.
It’s a sunny Sunday morning (oh it’s already noon!) in Tokyo. We went to the Liquid Room last night, the legendary club that has now changed its location and is run by friends of a friend. Such a hassle the get in even though we were on the guest list: the new government rules require everyone to show their photo ID for security reasons, and of course we hadn’t thought of that. But for some reason we had a laptop with us and for some reason there was a scanned photo of my friend’s passport (we were surprised) so after a 20-minute negotiation they let all of us in for that one ID. It’s easier to enter Russia, really.
You don’t see many westerners in the streets here – a fact I rather enjoy a lot – but here at Liquid half of the crowd was European. And in a very fascinating way: it seems they have created new identities, hybrid personalities and styles for themselves, now that they are away from home and immersed in a new culture. The DJs – Ivan from Moscow, Johan from Sweden, an Icelandic guy, and Henry from UK (he could have been a character straight from the Monty Python: so funny, so English) – were unlike anyone I have met before, and they made quite insightful and elevated companion…and they lack the coolness and remoteness I’m witnessing quite often in Europe. Great night. And my friend Micke has developed (accidentally) a new club dance, which he’s going to present to the world in the form of an educational DVD, so we had quite a laugh when applying these new, rather cubist steps and movements on the dance floor. This dance is quite swanky.
For a country so connected and technologically advanced, you don’t really hear mobiles ringing and people talking unnecessarily on the phones in trains, metro or other public spaces, for that is considered impolite towards others and is actually forbidden in places: there are designated areas to use mobiles (like we have the smoking rooms and areas). This is very refreshing as most of the calls one has to hear in, say, busses in Helsinki tend to be quite trivial.
The prospect of having to do my laundry usually annoys me, but last night I discovered the local way: you go to a small bath house (there are hundreds of them around), you set up everything in the washing machine room, and while the machine is washing you enter the bath house and enjoy sauna and hot bubbling pools of water (such a treat after a day of walking!!). And when you leave completely relaxed and happy, the machine has just finished and off you go! It was my smoothest laundry day ever. Fell asleep on the couch back at home because felt so pampered.
A surprise meeting: Tuomas Toivonen, a Finnish architect and musician (he’s part of the Giant Robot band and recently released his solo album too) and his wife Nene, a Japanese architect and designer, were participating in an exhibition in Japan, and the curator had recommended the Assistant as a possible contact for them. So they did, and here we were sitting at the studio and chatting over coffee about all things architecture, music, social evolution, Finnish drinking experiences etc. It just stroke me as a funny situation, because I had heard Giant Robot before and then few months earlier got very curious about this solo release by one of them – and then you meet him in Japan (and get the CD for free of course). In Helsinki we live in the same area but this meeting just wouldn’t have occurred there. He’ll be performing at the Vanha on 29th January, you’ll find me there then. (Also another Finnish singer-songwriter, Sansa, with whom I’m planning a collaboration when I’m back, will have a show at Umo Jazz House few days earlier on 26th, so you’ll find me there also!).
Friday night: going down to Shibuya to meet my friends at this dream-like Egyptian restaurant. Then a taxi ride to Omotesando, with one of the girls squeezing onto the floor and giggling uncontrollably; the girls are from New York and they look like Chrissie Hynde and they admire Chrissie Hynde and suddenly I get a feeling of being in New York in the early 80s. I tell them that Brian Eno got famous for being the only man who refused to sleep with Chrissie Hynde. We reach the club and it all looks completely deserted outside, no signs, nothing to be seen. Inside I can’t figure if the interior is a fake Venetian palace or a fake French castle or a real Las Vegas copy. Doesn’t matter, one of the girls has an invitation from the owner so they finally let all of us in free (I don’t even dare to imagine what the entrance fee could be like). The club is black and glowing red, music is right for carefree dancing and the style changes between every track. The owner, Madame Shioi, is gorgeous, stylish and one of the loveliest human beings I’ve met. We get on instantly, and she makes sure I’ll have enough wine in my glass and invites me to the club for the following evenings too. I may have tried to proceed a bit further with her, but I notice she’s got a certain – and perhaps a bit jealous – group of followers around her… I meet two other wonderful girls and have a very interesting conversation with one of them – again, I may have tried to proceed a bit further with them, but a sort of random selection enters the game, and through the synergies on the dancefloor this girl, Aki, and I are simply drawn together as if magnets. She’s is beautiful, funky and sparkling with life, and I start thinking “what am I doing with this 20-year-old girl!?”. She turns out to be 30. Child-like, like me. For the rest of the night we withdraw to talk into one of those more discreet cabinets at the club, and then share a taxi ride back home in the early morning hours…