It has never been in my karma to meet famous people. It just never happens to me*. But in 2012 I had the good fortune to meet “Tokyo Vice” author and enemy of Japanese crime Jake Adelstein at a sports pub in Roppongi. That was a wonderful gathering, during which the best-selling author autographed two books for me and I met some excellent people who are now friends. But because we were in a group and Jake was pressed for time, he and I didn’t really have a chance to talk privately.
However, fortune or fate paid me the rare compliment of granting me the chance to meet up with Jake again. We had breakfast together recently at a nice hotel near Union Square in San Francisco. We talked of many things, from cameras to conspiracies, and the hotel bar even had Dr Pepper. As ever Jake was gracious and accommodating and let me take his picture. I suppose it is my way of boasting that I am publishing a couple photos of him here for you to peruse.
Thanks, Mr. Adelstein, and I look forward to next time, whenever that may be…
(Pictures taken at the Parc 55 Wyndham Hotel, San Francisco, on November 6th, 2013)
* I was within five feet of Mike Tyson and Robin Givens at Ueno Park Zoo once, but I didn’t have the courage to walk up and shake Tyson’s hand. The couple was, ironically in Tyson’s case I thought, looking at the gorillas. This was in March, 1988, a couple of days before Tyson destroyed Tony Tubbs in two minutes and 54 seconds at the Tokyo Dome. I heard Tyson left Tokyo pretty quickly after the fight to avoid the wrath of Japanese fight fans and promoters, but that may be apocrypha gathered from the Tokyo gaijin grapevine that existed at the time.
It is a cliché of great truth: In Tokyo, one of the most crowded and kinetically frenzied cities on Earth, it is easy to be alone. I spent a lot of time alone in Tokyo in 2012—in my apartment, in restaurants, and in seedier parts of the city—during the five weeks in April and May when I was there working on a forthcoming book of photographs and prose. Fortunately, on a handful of occasions I accepted invitations to eat and drink with “gaijin”, mostly Americans, who knew me through Twitter and my heavy involvement with the 2011 Quakebook project.
I don’t make friends easily. I never have. I’m a natural, almost pathological, loner. But I was lucky enough to meet the good people in these pictures and click with each of them in some way. And I have stayed in touch with all these folks through social networks since I got back from Tokyo. I hope that continues for a long, long time. And to the people in my pictures I say: Thanks for making my 2012 trip to Tokyo such a splendid thing.
@loveartblues, an elegant guy wisely taking a break from the ocean of beer at Kamiya Bar.
@kuripyon, the smartest punk-rock-and-roll-engineering chick I’ve ever met. Kamiya Bar.
I met five other people in Tokyo, including this dear friend, but didn’t take their individual pictures. I’m sorry for that, and I hope to correct that mistake the next time we meet in Japan.
The story behind this is pretty short: I offered to write some lyrics for a friend to sing at a recent benefit show for earthquake and tsunami relief in Japan, and he didn’t use them. Oh, he thought what I’d written was lovely, but too long. And they just didn’t fit the tone of the blues music he expected to sing along with. And that was cool and I completely understood. I don’t like blues music much, so none was playing in my head when I wrote the lyrics below.
And it turns out my friend never ended up singing at the show anyway. Pity. I think he’d have been great.
As for inspiration, the story for that is equally short and simple. The lyrics are based upon news stories I read about Kunio Shiga, a 75-year-old farmer in Minami Soma, Japan who lost his wife and then lived completely alone in a crumbling farmhouse (without rescue) for nearly a month after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. His neighbors left because their town is only 12 miles away from Fukushima, and Shiga himself couldn’t cook any rice for lack of electricity and running water. It was one of the most grim, heart-rending stories I read in the weeks following the quake. If the link is still good, you can read the Time Magazine story here.
Mr. Shiga’s story is going to haunt me for a long time. I hope I did his tale some justice. I have searched the internet for some news of what became of this man, and if his wife is still alive, but have had no luck.
P.S. Likely this is purest hubris, but if you are a musician and are interested in recording a song using these lyrics, leave a comment and I’ll happily get in touch.
For the past several weeks, it has been both my honor and good fortune to be heavily involved in Quakebook, a project conceived by one Twitter user as a way to collect and publish stories by real people who lived through the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake in Japan. My colleagues and I have been getting the word out through Facebook, Twitter, and the Quakebook blog, of course. And we even had a press conference recently at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. But we wanted to do a little something extra, something we could share with the literally thousands of people around the world who support the Quakebook publishing effort and have asked what sort of “hands-on” thing they can do to help spread the word and promote our project.
So, we figured we could use a flyer.
See, Quakebook is remarkable in that it could not have been conceived nor created without the powerful and pervasive technology of the internet. Almost none of the editors, writers, photographers, designers and public relations specialists have EVER met face-to-face. Starting with one post on Twitter, the Quakebook project quickly became broadly distributed throughout the almost infinitesimally spider-webbed structure of the internet. All of the contributions to this book, in the form of text, photos and artwork, were submitted, edited, and laid out via email exchanges, Twitter and Facebook posts, and galleries on Flickr. And soon Quakebook will be available as a digital book on Amazon and a couple of other global ebook retailers (with all revenues going to the Japanese Red Cross). Pretty heady, complex stuff for the purposes of publishing something as old-fashioned as a book.
So we thought, why not give you, our fans and supporters, something as old-fashioned as a piece of paper to help us promote our charity work?
The graphic below is of a flyer a Quakebook editor cranked out really quickly. If you click the image, you’ll have access to the full-sized flyer, which you can save and print out. Our hope is that you’ll make multiple copies of the flyer and ask your local businesses to put a copy in their shop windows. Or you can put one on your local community library bulletin board. Or you can staple one on the telephone pole near your house. Whatever is easiest and seems most effective to you. If you put up 100 flyers or only one, it’s all gravy for us, and it all helps us raise as much money as possible for the victims of the Tōhoku earthquake.
(The guy who created the flyer even stapled one to the front of his house. Be creative.)