Recommended: Hiroshima Bugi

Hiroshima Bugi, by Gerald Vizenor, was introduced to me through my professor for one of my exchange classes, Contemporary Japanese Literature.  The whole class is about reading Japanese science fiction and then breaking them apart and thinking about how it deals with society and life, but I have no idea now for which story Hiroshima Bugi was used as an example.  I only know that, when it was put up on the screen, the format, the writing style, the content was so very innovative, so original, that I wanted to read more.

First page to Hiroshima Bugi

First page to Hiroshima Bugi

So naturally, being a fanatic reader, I asked my professor where I could find the book so I could read the rest.  It turns out that it got a super limited print because it was an independent publication by a university press (the University of Nebraska), and somehow or other a copy landed in the hands of my professor, so I ended up borrowing the book to read.  And the read was so worth it.

To be honest, when I read that first page in class, I thought the work was an independent poem, and not the opening to an entire novel.  The novel separates its paragraphs using indents, and the third indent is always used throughout the novel for direct dialogue, where the speakers alternate lines and the speech is short, staccato and symbolic.  And the most amazing thing was, the writing style is so experimental that I assumed the book was a translation from Japanese, but no.  The author is American, and so the book was already in English.

The book itself is a novel written with alternating chapters between two voices.  The first part is written through the eyes of Ronin Browne, a half Japanese half Native American who recounts the history of Japan using a mainly autobiographical style from the moment of the first atomic bombing, and keeping Hiroshima as its focal point.  The second half is written by Manidoo Envoy, a friend of Ronin’s father, and the one who gives explanations to what Ronin is doing, what historical references we need, and what background story to which character we need to know more of to understand what is going on.  His chapters are written more conventionally, and without his voice, I think the whole book would become super pastiche and experimental and not an approachable read at all.

Ronin’s sections are very poetic, Manidoo very factual.  They are so contrasting, but the author has done such a great job on interweaving the two voices together that I didn’t feel any sense of misplacement whilst reading the book.  However, the content is quite heavy, and even though things are explained to you, it is not a leisure book.  I’m pretty sure that I fell asleep quite a few times reading this book simply because it takes concentration to read.  Although the language isn’t particularly complex, the density of the content meant I couldn’t just skim over the paragraphs and understand what was going on; I really needed to focus on the words.

Regardless, if you manage to find it sometime, this is definitely worth dedicating a few days of your life to read.  Even if only to marvel at how the author has crafted each sentence in Ronin’s sections to show so many things in minimal words.

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#tokyolo: Lockup

The sign on the street is inconspicuous.  Black and red in the midst of other colourful signs.  ‘Lockup‘, it declares.  It doesn’t look at all scary, and it certainly does not invoke any sort of trepidation or anticipation for what you should expect upstairs.

So up you go.  The elevator dings, she presses ‘5’, it zooms up… and you’re there.

The doors open.

And all you see is a dark dungeon space with blood red floors.  There are two doorways.  The one on the right has a door. Wooden, light-filled, laughter drifting through the doors as people enter and exit.  The other, on the left.  No door blocks your view of a long, dark corridor.

You look at your friend.  She looks at you.  This is more than you anticipated.

“It looks fun! Let’s go!”  Her eyes are gleaming.  She said earlier she has wanted to come here for a long time.  And you swallow a gulp and smile tightly.

“Sure.”

And off you go, two girls linked arm in arm, down an unknown passage with empty jail cells along the side.  You know it’s fake, but chills still creep up your spine as you stride past all these half open iron doors.

The corridor seems to be unending.  Your friend clutches your arm a little tighter.

“This is getting creepy.”

BANG!  You both jump, you scream, you clutch at each other, and you start exclaiming as rattling chains start to sound.  You reach a door that looks like a sci-fi electronic door, and you both push it open, hoping that you have finally reached the bar.

But no.  That would not be enough of a thrill now, would it?

Instead of being greeted by the sight of a restaurant, you see nothing.  It is completely pitch-black.  You clutch at your friend, making sure she is still there, and the door swings shut behind you completely.  Sudden lights blink on and off, flashing just enough to show you the way.  Dark empty spaces are all around you.  Mirrors deceive your way.  You cannot see anything except what is revealed by the flashing lights.

Your grip on your friend gets tighter, and she is practically hugging you to her.  The only other way to tell that she is there is because you are both screaming over the groaning, creaking noises of the maze.

You both turn a corner, hoping that it is finally over, and it is! The door is right ahead.  You both start to hurry towards it, squeezing through a one-man passageway together so you are never separated, getting back out into a more open space, when a light flashes beside your friend.

A white, bloody head stares at you, before the light blinks off, and blinks on again.

You both practically burst through the door, exclaiming loudly, laughing in relief, that it is all over.  You have made it to the bar, and upbeat J-Pop music is playing loudly and cheerfully, helping calm your still-beating heart.  But it is quiet, and you cannot really see any waiters around, no customers around.

You both wander around, hoping to find another living soul, and finally, a stray waiter walks past with empty glasses.  She asks if you’re going home, and you try to say that you just got here, but you can’t.  All your Japanese has left you, and you cannot for the life of you remember how to even say anything coherent in English, let alone in Japanese.

Thankfully, another waiter comes, and somehow they figure it out, and lead you back to the exit of the mirror-maze, where another waiter, this time cosplaying a police woman, comes out and handcuffs you before leading the two of you to your table.  Your friend is laughing, she takes a picture, the police-waitress half closes the door to your ‘cell’, and all seems to be well.

You have survived.

And so you both look through the themed menu with drinks that seem like they were created from failed high school Chemistry experiments.  You both choose, you both order, and just as the drinks arrive and you have both taken pictures, the lights go out.  You scream.

And you KNOW this is not a power-outage.

They aren’t stopping with just a terrifyingly terrifying entry.  They are going to scare the shizz out of you whilst you eat your meal.

A siren begins to sound.  Chains rattle, doors grate open, and more cosplaying workers come out, shouting warnings through megaphones.

“Prisoners have escaped!  Be careful and stay in your cells!”

UV lights come on, and you look at your friend in terror across the table.

And the door to your table opens.

You scream, thinking that it is a monster, but no.  It is a waiter, bringing your two other friends to your table because they want the key back to the hostel room.  And they are exclaiming about the bar, and complaining about the whole thing, and they cut through the terror and bring back some normalcy.

They are also sitting between you and the door, and therefore protecting you from anything that may come through the door.

Because things do come through the door.  Workers in long white robes come in, leering at you in masks.  They peer through the door, peer through the window, and every time they do so, one of the newcomers starts exclaiming really loudly.

“You really look good in that mask! You are so handsome!”  And that makes you laugh, and slowly your terror subsides.

Soon, but not soon enough, the lights come back on, and the J-Pop starts again.  Your drinks are mediocre, but you and your friend don’t really care anymore.  Maybe you get scared too easily.  Maybe other people come here and think it’s fun.  But regardless, you down your drinks, you all get up to leave, and you escape from that place, quickly walking through one last red-lit corridor as you follow the pair that came late back to the lifts.

Your arms are linked firmly with your friend’s, and you don’t let go until you step back out of the lift into the well-lit streets of Ikebukuro.


#tokyolo: impressions
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#tokyolo: LaQua Spa

One-Month Anniversary

At first I was afraid, I was petrified.  Thinking I couldn’t live when you entered my life.  But I’m spending oh so many nights, thinking how you’re alright, and I grew strong, and I learned how to get along with so many things from Earth to space, connected and contactable with one touch of your face…

I really should have changed my views, or made myself quit my ways, but I’m still confused, I still don’t really want you!

It’s been a month; I have survived, but there are changes to my life that I am not sure that I like!  I still can’t call but I can check, and I go on when there’s wi-fi and talk and snap my friends, but I can’t see the world beyond the glare of the screen. The outside dissolves as I delve into a reality that exists as 0’s and 1’s and unseen threads through time and web and space and it is hard to disconnect when there’s always someone online.

When there is no wi-fi, you’re just another phone.  A phone that works in swipes and not in the press of a key.  There are many many apps that help my life get ‘better’, and I appreciate them all, but do they really make me better?

But in the end, I just can’t help it.

In my heart your cons outweigh your pros; I’ve got no self-restraint. At the start, I only wanted Maps, and now I’ve got SnapChat and Instagram and Twitter and WhatsApp.  I don’t use a lot of them, but it’s still there to tempt, when I’m just sitting there and there’s nothing else to do.

And don’t get me started on Messenger.  I swear everyone’s on that, and they’re always online.  I put you away for a second, and I turn back when I’m free and there are fifty million messages just lighting up your screen…

I don’t regret you.  I don’t hate you.  You have your moments when I love you and it’s really just divine.  But a lot of the time you are a gateway down a road that sucks up all my time and takes away from my life in the world.

So I appreciate your presence, and I’m sure that it is because it’s only been a month, that I am still in a whirlwind of emotions, and we’re still in our honeymoon phase, and after this phase is over, I won’t be reliant anymore.  You will just be another phone, and just another tool in life, and you will fade into the background to support me as I live.

Happy one month, my iPhone. And happy Valentine’s Day, I guess.