Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Akihabara ALi-MO memories: the OTHER side

A few years ago, back when our original bass player was working and living on the East side of Tokyo, Akihabara was home to many an ALi-MO rehearsal. We'd trek over there in the early evening, dodging the legions of tired and mundane salarymen who populate the other side of the massive station (the Showa-dori side, opposite of the electronics, video games, manga, anime, cell phones and armies of otaku), navigating past izakaya pubs and karaoke joints to reach a basement studio near a sullen canal.

The atmosphere is certainly chaotic over there--but it has nothing of the otaku frenetics of the opposite exit, opening onto the massive intersection where, last Sunday, a frustrated young man stabbed 17 people at noon, killing seven of them.

They were good building years for our band and its repertoire. We were on a mission to create the backbone of a master set list that would enable us to play upon invitation in any venue. On some nights, looking ragged from work, we'd nail three or four songs before 11 p.m.

Things were quieter when we hobbled back to the station to head home. Akihabara then was rising in the national and international consciousness, but it hadn't yet reached the peak of exposure it would scale two and three years later, in 2006 and 07. It was hot, but not yet burning.

In 05 and 06, I would spend a lot of time on the other side of that station, researching otaku culture for my book, Japanamerica. But when our band was rehearsing there, it still felt a bit like ... well ... like just another busy station on the Yamanote train line. Crowded, pushy, strained and too fluorescent, but not menacing. Not stained.

I'm just back from another band rehearsal tonight, this one on the West side of town in preparation for our Amnesty gig this Sunday in Ebisu, where I hope you'll join us at 7 p.m. at 'What the Dickens.'

Great rehearsal, but last Sunday's events still haunt me.

Some say that nostalgia is merely a mask for rage. And maybe I'm angry that seven people died in Akihabara, and that the neighborhood is being transformed from a real place into tabloid fodder.

No, not maybe. I am.

--gene k

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