Let’s Yokohama

I am mildly horrified.  

When was the last post posted? Too long.

I know they’re terrible, but I secretly love the double verb-object thing. The feelings I feel. The thoughts I think.  Gosh, I know, I know. It’s mildly terrible. 

Anyway, Yokohama. I have been in Yokohama, a big city an hour south of central Tokyo by train. There is a big box in my brain of unwritten blog posts, like mewling kittens that I’ve forgotten to fed, they’ve languished, their moment passed. Now it’s too late to write about the rose garden overlooking the bay, the kabuki play, the fancy beef dinner.  

But, Yokohama. It’s one of Japan’s old major port cities that was especially important on the mid-nineteenth, into the twentieth century. When Japan started trading more widely with the rest of the world, ships glided into Yokohama bay. The first gaslit streetlamps were Yokohama. The first jazz performance. The first newspaper, I think. Nineteenth century contact with the Western world left a fascinating mark on the buildings and the food. Lots of restaurants serve Japanese food that appeared in the early twentieth century: hamburger patties with potatoes and gravy, fried cutlets with heaps of shredded cabbage, bits of beef with winter vegetables cooked soft. Spaghetti Neapolitan, that most Japanese of dishes was supposedly “invented” in Yokohama in the postwar: It’s spaghetti topped with a ketchup sauce, green bell peppers, mushrooms, and pork sausage (or sliced ham). 

I’ve taken to the jazz scene in Yokohama. There’s a jazz cafe called Chigusa where you sip coffe and listen to jazz records from their library the owner collected since the 30s. There’s a big pair of record player speakers, the whole set up custom designed to fit the little space. Dark paneled wood. All the worn chairs face the speakers and no one  talks as the music flows out in great waves. I drink my coffee and sit. Sometimes I read.

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There’s a jazz bar crammed in the second floor space of a building that I’ve taken to visiting during the week. I eat spaghetti Neapolitan and sometimes the music is great. Sometimes disappointing, but the spaghetti is hot and good, and the whiskey is cold. 

I have not been writing very much. It’s been hard to build a writing routine here, and I end up working in the mornings. If I’m feeling generous to my time here, I’ll point out that seeing a Kabuki performance did help me with Kabuki-ish and it does count as research. It also reminded me of how un-Kabuki-like the Kabuki in Kabuki-ish is. Or, how un-modern-Kabuki-ish it is. Modern Kabuki is a little slow, a little ponderous, but with charm. This is not the first Kabuki I have seen, and I do not feel compelled to change the theatrical stuff as written, but I do think about it from time to time.  I think about how I avoid using the work Kabuki. I think about how art and traditions change over time. What would the Lord of the Rings look like as Kabuki? I think it would be pretty awesome, actually.

There’s something that Kabuki and jazz have in common that I like; they invite the audience to clap and cheer in the middle of performance. A bad-ass solo? Clap. An actor strikes a cool pose after challenging a bad guy? Clap and cheer as he stomps and glowers. It’s a moment when we all come together and become one in our expression of love of something, whether hunched over our knees in a theater or a bowl of steaming spaghetti. 

 

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