Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mad Tokyo Cows and the Joys of the Gaijin Bubble

Howdy as always yall! You know, everyone needs a good laugh. It is laughter which has got me though some shitty parts of my life. It is also just good fun all around. Although, as you can guess finding English stand up comedy in Tokyo is not an easy mission. Naturally, most live comedy is done in Japanese. To be honest, I don't really find Japanese comedy all that funny. The natives laugh at J-comedy but I usually find it to be a little silly. With all that said, there is a underground traveling stand up group in the Tokyo area known as Mad Cows of Tokyo.

I have heard about this group for a while but it was not until last week that I finally made it out to one of their little events.  I was encouraged to attend the event by a gal I met in a bar in Shibuya. She was upbeat and full of conversation topics, so when she not only invited me, but sent me several emails reminding of the event, I really had no other choice but to attend. It seemed a big deal for her that I show up and watch her sing a funny song. So, being the Southern gentlemen that I am, I left work in Yokohama and traveled to Daikanyama to see for myself what all the fuss was about.

This gal really made a big deal about my attendance. She gave me a few texts while I was at work and even had me text her when I arrived at Daikanyama so she could meet up with me. Her warmth and care for my safe and speedy arrival was a refreshing  change from the usual attitudes a deal with daily. Anyway, after we met up we went, arm and arm, around the corner to a coffee shop which hide itself in a maze pretending to be a building. Tokyo has a lot of buildings like this due to a limited amount of space and inflated land prices.  It is not all that hard to get lost in a three story building. It took us about 15 minutes to finally find the actual coffee shop.

It was a mellow little coffee shop which sold hard drinks about the sun goes down. Judging from the layout of the joint, I guess that they go after the working class during the day and aim for the tired business folk after sunset. Overall, it was a nice little place except for the overpriced drinks and low lighting. I kind of had to focus to get a feel for the surroundings because my new friend made it a point to introduce me to everyone she knew. Apparently, she is a regular on the underground English comedy ring in Tokyo and knows all the other comedians. I got to meet everyone and I quickly felt that something was out of place. I could not tell what was off with these people at first but something seemed forced and unnatural. An odd kicking distance which was so strong that I was almost taken back by it. Yet, it was hard to focus due to my escort having me jump from one person to the next. It was fun meeting so many people at once all the same.

The event was actually meant to be a little contest of sorts for a bigger planned event. The winner from this event went on to a larger event with some sort of prize involved. I was not exactly clear on the details. It seemed that most people did not really care about the contest and just wanted to get up in front of the small crowd, tell some jokes and just have a few laughs. Most of them were okay and I found most of them to have at least said a few funny things. The comedians were from several different backgrounds, including a few Japanese, so it was fun to hear jokes with a different perspective. Overall, they made me laugh enough for me to say I enjoyed the stand up. Although, it was only after the performance that I got a better sense of why I felt the strange distance.

It was more than just the natural awkwardness of meeting new people. I was a gaijin they did not know and I was also someone who is not out and about all the time. Only one or two people could place me at any other place before. My buddy Paul,who is different from the other gaijin at the event, was there so he knew me. The gal that invited me to the event knew we as well. After about 15 minutes of listening to everyone else talk, it became clear to me that most of the comedians had been living in the gaijin bubble.

For those of yall who don't know what the gaijin bubble is please allow me to explain. A gaijin bubble is when someone avoids regular direct contact with native Japanese people. Instead, go to places in which English is often spoken and most of the things they do involve other foreigners. I will never knock such behavior because Japan is a tough nation to get used to and having people around ya who share a similar background can really make life easier. The thing is, I am really not used to being around these kind of folk.  The social rules are totally different from the kind of foreigners I usually hang out with. You cannot say certain things around these folks and expect to win their favor. For example, you cannot say anything positive about Japanese people or Japanese culture. Due to the bubble they live in, Japanese culture looks like a backwards off putting concept to them. Also, it is not a good idea to speak too much Japanese around them. Speaking Japanese to other native speakers of English is very odd for someone who lives in a gaijin bubble. I can totally understand the kinds of feelings these folks have about Japan. The culture here is hard to adjust to and it is even harder to fit in a homogenous society. A lot of people do come to Japan and quickly realize the uphill battle of being gaijin in Japan. It is real easy to surround yourself with people of a similar background and create a bubble.  Now, I am sure that not everyone performing that night lives in a bubble. I am sure that several of them deal with Japan head on everyday. Although, there were enough people there who do live in a bubble to call it a majority.

Yeah, it can be very hard living in Japan. From time to time, I even put myself into a temporary bubble just to get away from the up tight lifestyle in Japan. So, that is why the Mad Cows of Tokyo are cool. You can hang out with people who have a strong sense of their own culture and have a good laugh as well. In fact, they are having another little mini event at my buddy Paul's bar Vega Wine Bar on Jan. 25th Tokyo time. It was good to see Paul again and I miss going to his bar. So, if you got nothing to do in the 25th then you might just find me at Vega Wine Bar in Ebisu. Click here for the Vega bar website so you can get more details. BTW Monday is Wine Viking night which means for 2,000 yen you can drink all of Paul's fine wine you like for two hours. Also you can click here to check out Mad Cows of Tokyo website to learn a bit more about what they do.