As per usual Super Street M.O., after floating through the high of traveling to Japan, I'm finally sitting down to try and grasp any sense of a story in attempt to accurately describe my first trip to the Motherland. Ever since returning home I've been envisioning composing some radical tale for this editorial, but realistically I'm just not that magical in the writing department and would probably lose you right off the bat. So to be blunt, rather than attempting to come up with some entrancing story about how my first trip was, how eager I've been to travel to Japan and how my brain was exploding with joy on a daily basis, I'm just going to provide you with a few of my most memorable moments to make this as coherent, painless and pleasurable as possible.
—Let's start by stating that I'm a low-key kinda guy (when I'm not jacked on coffee), yet I'm also an adventurer. I'd like to think I enjoy the more authentic things in life. Miller High Life, extra butter and face-to-face communication are all on my list. When visiting a new city I usually tend to stray as far away as possible from the Google/Yelp suggestions and prefer to simply get lost, find one-off hole in the wall joints and mingle with the locals. It's the genuine way of traveling, in my opinion. And after a solid week of shooting and sticking to the schedule, my last night was finally before my eyes, and I was ready to experience Tokyo properly. Chomping at the bit, I grabbed my fellow gaijin (Sean) and set off to the Shinjuku back roads to see what we could find. About an hour and a half a dozen tall boys later we finally stumbled across a random door amidst a dark alley with no other signage than a plaque stating, "Jazz bar." A Jazz bar? In Japan? We had to check it out. After opening the door we walked to the bottom of the steps where we were welcomed by a pocket-sized whisky/jazz lounge that seemed to be relatively unknown to the outside world. Our minds had been blown. The locals were welcoming, the conversation was flowing and the drinks were just right. The bartender was even chopping away at blocks of ice to create perfect spheres for our dark beverages. A few conversations later we found that this bar we stumbled upon was allegedly the premier spot back in the day. This jazz bar is where it all went down. From the days of solid jazz to the stuff gaijin are really not supposed to know about, there is no form of technology that could've recommended this spot to us, yet somehow we found it—simply by aimlessly combing through the foreign city. What really made my brain explode was that this jazz bar was just one door in a city filled with millions. You could literally wander through the city for days on end and find a new, super radical spot every time. It's just how Japan is.
—Ready for something I'll never forget? I had countless friends tell me that Japan was filled with the absolute nicest people. Though I nodded my head and generally believed them, I was unsure of the extent. Keep in mind I come from Atlanta, where petty theft and firearm permits are a part of everyday life. Excuse me if I've made it a habit to always tuck my shawty's purse under the seat and carry my camera bag with me to the Porta-Potty while on assignment. Yet, more than frequently I tend to slip up on my game (especially when I have four hours to kill at the Narita airport before my departing flight back to California). Well, it just so happens that Japan sells alcohol everywhere. Not just in drug stores, but random stands on the streets, certain vending machines, airport lobbies, etc. Four hours to kill and cheap beer before a nine-hour flight? Game on. Turns out after snagging a few "supplies" from the 7-Eleven I unconsciously bolted outside to pair a few smokes with my brisk Asahi, leaving my Pelican case behind. What!? Yep. And it wasn't until about 15 minutes later that I had the ultimate, "Oh shit" moment. My Pelican, filled with over 15K in gear and an entire week of international shooting, nowhere to be found. I panicked. Quickly, I darted inside, sprinted a solid 100 yards, dodged a few Japanese salary men and finally got back to the 7-Eleven stand where I found my Pelican case sitting Exactly where I left it. If I were anywhere else in the world, you can be sure it would've been scooped up the moment I turned my back. Not in Japan, no sir. Theft is just not in their nature.
—Aside from getting lost and losing my belongings, a good majority of my time was spent eating. And if you're a foodie kind of person, let me factually say that everything you've heard about the food in Japan is true. It is all amazing. Balls-to-the-wall, mind blowing. It's as if even their cheapest, most ghetto food stand simply just blows our top notch "secret spot" to smithereens. Ramen for breakfast, lunch, dinner, Whatever! It's all fire. The fish is also super succulent. No—you don't have to worry about the radiation... unless you're in certain parts of the country, that is. No radioactive growths here so far! I even had whale. Raw whale (sorry activists!). And when I was on the run and didn't have time for a sit down meal, I knew I could always count on a fresh n' hot pork bun from the nearest 7-Eleven. Though I was in my glory, some were not so lucky—my friend Kemal from New York to be exact. See, Kemal came out to Japan for the time of his life as well, though I suppose he didn't entirely plan on the fact that the majority of the food in Japan involves pork, and due to cultural beliefs, was unable to eat such foods. What started as a journey through the foreign country turned into a strict American fast food diet which inevitably left Kemal fainting, face first on the Japan rail line craving a plate of sweet Halal stand edibles through his foggy unconscious dreams. Don't worry, Kemal is fine, but he definitely has some advice for those of you who stray from the pig.
It's safe to say the trip went entirely too fast. From initially landing in Narita to riding the Shinkansen bullet train down to Osaka, to trying new foods and mingling with the locals. Japan was everything I could've ever dreamed of and more, and I will be patiently waiting for my return, as I know I have only experienced just a portion of the beautiful country. Sougi, folks. Sougi.