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[personal profile] imomus
When I visit a place, fantasies of living there start to tug at the edges of my imagination. How would I survive economically here? Which area would I pick to live in? How would I decorate my new apartment? How much rent would I have to pay? Would I ride a bike? How would I dress? Which cafes and clubs would I begin to haunt? Who would become my new friends?



Since this is a game of fantasy, it would be easy to imagineer oneself into some chintzy turreted mansion in a rich, flashy neighbourhood. Dreaming costs nothing, so why dream small, right? But fantasy doesn't work like that, for me, anyway. The most evocative fantasy is one with only the thinnest membrane between itself and reality; it gets its power from being eminently possible. From being a plan. So actually, my imagination thrives on rather austere, impoverished scenarios. I like to project myself into rather stark, cheap, working class districts, and imagine some kind of free vie de boheme unfolding in them.



So here's a fantasy, and here's a plan. Let's say I come to live in Osaka, sometime later this year. Yes, why not? It's a new decade, and I always like to get up and go somewhere new when the calendar changes. Ten years ago I moved, fairly haphazardly, to New York. Yesterday I got a flashback to how the Lower East Side called out to me in 1999. That year I trekked down Orchard Street, photographing abandoned TV sets and piles of Chinese boxes on the sidewalks. A few months later I was living there.

Walking through the wholesale light industrial area between Shinsekai and Nipponbashi yesterday, I actually felt something like what I felt on Orchard Street ten years ago, before the art galleries moved in. I have nothing against art galleries moving in, but I like to catch a cheap, mixed-use, working class neighbourhood on the turn; that moment when there's just one art gallery is a special one. As it happens there is one peculiar little art gallery in my target area, one with the right kind of shabby underground energy. It seems to be called 御蔵跡. It's located in an old building here in Haki Haki town, an area famous for wholesale and specialty footwear stores (plastic toilet shoes, slippers, trad Japanese sandals).



I've never seriously thought about living in Osaka before. I love Tokyo best of all. But increasingly, my outlook has Berlinified, by which I mean I regard expensive cities like New York, London and Tokyo as unsuited to subculture. They're essentially uncreative because creative people living there have to put too much of their time and effort into the meaningless hackwork which allows them to meet the city's high rents and prices. So disciplines like graphic design and television thrive, but more interesting types of art are throttled in the cradle. The most Berlin-ish neighbourhood in Tokyo is secondhand-town Koenji, and that's the place I've felt increasingly drawn to on recent visits. But Osaka actually offers something much more like the Berlin environment, which may be one reason my musical heroes -- people like Doddodo and Oorutaichi -- live here.



Getting a glimpse of Doddodo's Nipponbashi flat was also a bit of an inspiration. We met her in the Misono Building, itself a splendidly peeling underground and nocturnal place, the kind of building only possible in a city that allows itself some creative decay. Misono, once a chic shopping arcade near Namba station, is now full of weird countercultural bars. After drinking there, Doddodo took us to her place nearby to fetch a DVD she wanted to give me. She lives right by one of the area's quirky, bustling, gritty shopping arcades; food shopping must take her five minutes. The flat was in some disorder, so we waited outside, but I glimpsed drawings and paintings-in-progress through the door.



In Tokyo terms, Nipponbashi would be Akihabara; bounding it on one side is a long street (dominated by a huge Gundam cut-out) full of electronics and porn DVD stores (as well as an amazing retro record shop). Serving the otaku clientele, the backstreets feature a number of Maid Cafes. And that's a reminder of one way Osaka is totally unlike Berlin. Despite its shabby bits, Osaka is a vastly wealthy city (if it were a country, it would be one of the world's richest) with a vulgar commercial energy Berlin can't begin to match. Osaka is massive, industrious and dense, and there are businesses here that cater to every imagineable human whim, and that don't close on Sundays. And if you want to escape the density and intensity, well, the mountains of Shikoku aren't far.



So how much would it cost to have your own apartment in Osaka? The answer is, surprisingly little. This rental advert, for instance, shows an apartment you could have for just 30,000 yen a month. Now, sure, it's only 7 metres square, and sure, it doesn't have a bathroom or a kitchen. But come on, be creative! You could pee into a pet bottle and eat takeaway okonomiyaki. After all, your monthly rent is just 226 euros! And you're living in Osaka, a place known for its cheap and excellent food. As for washing, grab soap and a towel and go to the sento! Most importantly, employ the time freed up by not having to be employed to make some good art!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 12:41 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I love how the apartment for rent sign says "毎日芸人さんにあえるかも!” - "you could meet entertainers every day!"

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 12:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] imomus.livejournal.com
"...and ask to use their bathroom!"

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] subalpine.livejournal.com - Date: 2010-01-15 10:12 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 02:24 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Great post. Go for it, you only live once. Whenever you move it makes for good essays. Since you've been relatively stable for 5 years or so, you've had less and less material to work with.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 04:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] milky-eyes.livejournal.com
no bathroom is a bit of a deal breaker for me.... love the post...

Dreaming costs nothing, so why dream small, right? But fantasy doesn't work like that, for me, anyway. The most evocative fantasy is one with only the thinnest membrane between itself and reality; it gets its power from being eminently possible. From being a plan.

good one!

btw LES blows now...

so, if you were to go the next rung up and include a bathroom in that dream/plan... how would that change things? How much rent?

30,000 yen is crazy cheap.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 05:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lord-whimsy.livejournal.com
Gopher it.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 05:44 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
大阪 keeps flaring up in the memetic circles I frequent these days. Seems like a cool place. Tired of being poor in my own country, I also like to lead thrifty, slice-of-life fantasy lives in other countries. Akogare no Superlegitimate-Anytown?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 06:21 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Forget Nipponbashi! Shinsekai is the Osaka neighborhood screaming for gentrification pioneers in my opinion. Beautiful prostitutes, beautiful transvestites, drunk old men milling about slurring their way through karaoke numbers all day long in dive bars, what more could you ask for? How about a rusty, deformed copy of the Eiffel Tower? SHAZAM, you got it!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 07:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] imomus.livejournal.com
Well, I'm talking about the part of Nipponbashi that shades into Shinsekai. It's five minutes' walk.

The Detroit of Japan

Date: 2010-01-15 07:56 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
You won't like it; the people are crude and unrefined for the most part -- as opposed to the people in Tokyo who are affected and snobbish.

Take your pick, I guess. But the more I visit Osaka the tackier and tackier the people and the place seems to be. It's amazing how a megaopolis can have such a provincial feeling.

Kyoto, though, is another story...

Re: The Detroit of Japan

Date: 2010-01-15 08:19 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thanks for bringing up Detroit. Why not take your 200 euros there and *buy* a home?
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/opinion/08barlow.html

Re: The Detroit of Japan

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2010-01-15 08:34 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: The Detroit of Japan

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2010-01-15 09:55 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: The Detroit of Japan

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Re: The Detroit of Japan

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2010-01-15 07:08 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 08:40 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
You strangely don't mention the fact that Hisae is from Osaka. Could it be that this is more about old-fashioned spousal pressure than funky on-the-turn neighbourhoods?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 08:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] imomus.livejournal.com
Oh, it's definitely also because Hisae (girlfriend, not spouse) has family here!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 11:07 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
How dangerous is it?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 11:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pulled-up.blogspot.com (from livejournal.com)
7 meters square, is that about the size of my kitchen?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 12:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] funazushi.livejournal.com
Marry Hisae, change your name to Nakatani and become chonan and live rent free for life.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 01:24 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Become a polygamous messiah-figure, in a tin shack camp choking with love slaves, rendered disjointed and compliant by doped Aloe Vera juice!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 01:25 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Is it safe?

reproduce

Date: 2010-01-15 02:08 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
you gotta just do it

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 02:29 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
The size of that room is not "7.25 square meters" but "7.25 tatami mats", a tatami mat being approximately 90 x 180 cm. This is the standard unit for measuring rooms in Japan, with the additional twist that "one tatami mat" is slightly smaller in a "mansion" (i.e. house built with concrete) than in an "apaato" (a house built of wood).

So the size of that room is more like 12 square meters.

Jan

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 07:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] akabe.livejournal.com
i see, ; that would then be the difference between 畳 and 帖, no ?

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] subalpine.livejournal.com - Date: 2010-01-16 02:46 am (UTC) - Expand

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From: [identity profile] kumakouji.livejournal.com - Date: 2010-01-16 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand

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From: [identity profile] subalpine.livejournal.com - Date: 2010-01-17 01:42 am (UTC) - Expand

Moonshine.

Date: 2010-01-15 02:57 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
But, Momus, you would never leave Berlin for Osaka. You know this and yet you have wasted a day's blog on pretending that you would!
You do like to play with our time, don't you!

Content yourself with visiting the place from time to time.

Love.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 05:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] butterflyrobert.livejournal.com
How much extra would you have to spend on a place with a bathroom? 20,000?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-16 05:54 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
you can get a two b-room apartment in places for less than that, even.
and certainly with a bath and toilet. nick's just being the typical cheapskate.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 06:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cap-scaleman.livejournal.com
How much rent a month do/did you have to pay for your Berlin flat?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-17 01:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] imomus.livejournal.com
Hisae and I pay €225 each.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] cap-scaleman.livejournal.com - Date: 2010-01-17 10:30 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 06:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] milky-eyes.livejournal.com
we're all dying to know... how much for a bathroom?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-15 07:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] akabe.livejournal.com


http://rent.realestate.yahoo.co.jp/bin/rsearch?md=stn&lc=06&pf=27&lnc=6603

Mokarimakka?

Date: 2010-01-15 07:12 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Anything under 1000 (one thousand) for an apartment in a major city should be considered reasonable -- provided you're able to be employed there. One wonders just how Nick would be able to pay his share in Japan, not speaking the language and all...

Re: Mokarimakka?

Date: 2010-01-16 12:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] milky-eyes.livejournal.com
I'm sure he reads/writes speaks just fine.....

I dont know about reading/writing actually,...

but speaking? I'm sure he's semi fluent....

Re: Mokarimakka?

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2010-01-16 05:49 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Mokarimakka?

From: [identity profile] milky-eyes.livejournal.com - Date: 2010-01-16 07:49 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Mokarimakka?

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2010-01-16 08:09 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Mokarimakka?

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2010-01-16 08:25 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: Mokarimakka?

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Re: Mokarimakka?

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(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-16 04:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fishwithissues.livejournal.com
Maybe my favorite post ever? The idea about the most possible fantasy being the best one gave me some real, good vibes, man. Can I please call it Occam's Fantasia?

Good luck on the move and the bottle-decorating party, Mr. Momus.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-16 05:51 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
What does he mean "not having to be employed"???

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-16 06:55 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Spouse visa?? Is that the tinkling of wedding bells I hear?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-16 01:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eclectiktronik.livejournal.com
several people I know had their plans to live in Japan thwarted by visa limitations. of course, having Hisae is probably a major advantage in that area!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-16 10:25 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
indeed; it's the equivalent of a green card in america, gets you access to national health care, etc. without a spouse visa, you'd need to have a "sponsorship" visa arrangement with a company, which means of course that you've become gainfully employed in japan, which nick has boasted here about not becoming!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-16 04:46 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'd be really interested in your definition of good art. Or art, for that matter. How does one define one's production or activity that way?

dance the futti tutti

Date: 2010-01-16 06:35 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
whats the first record you bought

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-16 10:32 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I am really going to miss this blog.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-19 01:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slime-slime-sly.livejournal.com
I was sharing an appartment in tokyo (well, actually, hino city, 30 minutes down the chuo line) for ¥20.000 a month, with bathroom and kitchen, and 2 15m2 rooms for myself!beat that!
It was a 3 piece hiraya, so it was 3 houses in one and i had one them all for myself. The main one was modern and had working toilet and kitchen.
Of course, the place was crumbling to pieces. My windows were boarded. My own toilet and kitchen hadnt been used in decades. Everything was covered in a thick blanket of dust which i could not get rid of ever, cos it was to cold to clean with water.There were cats sneaking into my room through the cracks. I had to sleep in the closet as it was the only place where i could avoid freezing with the wind at night. When spring came, the lizards that had been hibernating over the sliding doors would fall on my head as i opened them
My flatmates were a motley crew of outcast furitaas, a couple of them in their 40s. Except they were not artistic in any way, they had just ended up there because they had no choice i guess. And then my next door neighbor lived in a similarly shabby house filled with plants, contrasted by the luxury sports cars parked in front of it (he was a car designer). The kind of scene that i miss from japan!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-19 02:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kineticfactory.livejournal.com
But increasingly, my outlook has Berlinified, by which I mean I regard expensive cities like New York, London and Tokyo as unsuited to subculture. They're essentially uncreative because creative people living there have to put too much of their time and effort into the meaningless hackwork which allows them to meet the city's high rents and prices. So disciplines like graphic design and television thrive, but more interesting types of art are throttled in the cradle.


That's an interesting observation about the difference between first-tier and second-tier cities, and not unlike what I've observed, having lived in both Melbourne and London. Anyway, your post inspired me to write a more detailed response (http://dev.null.org/blog/item/201001191409_downfirst).