When last we checked, our hero was preparing to climb aboard a plane to escape the emptiness of his post-college life in New Hampshire—leaving his friends, his family, and his Nabokov collection behind—to teach English in Japan in hope of fulfilling his craving for adventure, finally attaining independence, paying back his student loans, and padding his resume to make himself more attractive to potential employers back in the States.
There’s a lot to see here—not so much at the Seminar House, where the trainers all speak English and we’re surrounded by textbooks and Western-style office furniture all day long; but outside in Omiya where I venture out with the others. The streets are full of activity all day and night; a flurry of sights and sounds that overwhelm the senses and leave me feeling dizzy and stupefied after too much stimulation. There are tall buildings that rise up near the train station, hung with banners and flashing neon lights that beam advertisements all across the city. There are brick and concrete apartments in a rainbow of whites, grays, browns, blacks and brick patterns that give the streets a distinct otherworldly feeling. There are strange road signs whose meanings (aside from the universal blue P) I cannot decipher, pointing the way to frantic drivers in their Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans, and the occasional Volkswagon. There are signs—everywhere signs—read horizontally, vertically, and in cartoonish half circles. There are the alleys and the side streets, the suburban blocks and the overpasses, the zig-zag intersections crossing every which way, and the narrow one-ways where cars squeeze between one another and bike-riders of all ages reign supreme; convenience stores and vegetable markets and electronics stores and hair salons with outrageous prices posted outside the windows next to restaurants with plastic food replicas in glass cases alongside tiny luncheon houses with long counters where businessmen and young people sit alone munching noodles with pachinko parlors on every street that draw my eyes with their colored lights and loud noises (for everything in Japan seems to flash, flash, FLASH! turning the streets into epilepsy-inducing spectacles that would put even the most spectacular American laser light shows to shame) and there are arcades too in the red (pink?) light district where the strippers dressed in skintight outfits stand outside calling out to the Japanese businessmen on their night out and still more posters list the girls promoting promises of pleasure inside and other shops that must sell sex next to the famed Love Hotels that charge by the hour and now all of us are getting wierded out and it’s time to turn around back past the wooden-doored bars and the karaoke rooms one that Shirley says is good cheap but expensive after eleven for people who really live the night life here back to the station where the taxis wait in a massive square the McDonalds pictures show sandwiches that haven’t been dressed up by crews to make them look their best oh no for everything here exists in a random jumble of activity that makes my head spin and sometimes I have to look down at the yellow line they’ve installed to help the blind people walk just like the different lengths of the yen that’s easy to convert all you do is pretend theyre pennies times ten single yen coins are useless and light like a ticket token at funspot which looks like an antique machine shop compared to the rows of games here street fighter 4 horse racing photo booths drum games like in lost in translation but people here sit slumped over their machines smoking endless cigarettes the smoke so thick go and get some air tom says the men here all get sucked into their games leaving women unfulfilled take advantage hard to say so many of them everywhere walking strolling talking looking vivacious welldressed smiling highcheeked brighteyed staring everyone staring at us gaijin trying to hide it not just girls longhair some dyed blond funny idea for a style do they so admire the west that they desire to emulate us so many ways even writing everywhere jumps out not like kanji my mind skips over makes no sense but kana try to read looks like —shujin tsuma— kamari—no—— that’s too much for now have to leave this night life behind because Im tired and I think I need to lie down.