The Japan episodes turned 5% of my hair white. I used to “act” in Japan. Tokyo was familiar turf. But, this time things were different. We were on a time crunch to wrap up the season, the production house was experiencing sticker shock with our bills, and the collision between Japanese mentality (super formal) and Road Less Traveled style (very loose) had my teeth grinding like a wheat mill.
There were no formalities as I approached a seedy host club in Kabukicho and asked to film on the spot. I shadowed a male gigolo. His main customers: ladies from the adjacent hostess club. These women spend all night lighting cigarettes, pouring drinks, and laughing at terrible jokes; then they blow all their earnings conversing with a handsome young host who can relate. I was amazed at how fast my mentor could put his audience into a spell. I could have transformed into a werewolf and she’d have payed me no attention. Unfortunately the footage came out too dark (they wouldn’t allow lights) so we had to scrap it.
There is a lot of pressure to conform in all societies, but in Japan the level is high. This must have something to do with how peaceable the country is. One can walk across the mega-city of Tokyo in the middle of the night, or get off on any subway stop, and be fine*. But there is a dark side to this conformity. A look across the long aisle of grey suits and dour faces as "salarymen" come home on the subway will make it obvious that some of these guys could be happier in another life. In fact, an alarming number end up jumping in front of the same trains that carried them to work everyday**.
I wanted to showcase Japanese who were brave enough to changed their lives and embrace their true selves. You'll see that I found perhaps the bravest in a neighborhood that confirms the expression "your vibe attracts your tribe."
If we vibrate on an inauthentic frequency (in an effort to conform), we’ll never meet the friends and lovers who would truly understand us. There’s a palpable optimism around people who are resonating honesty because they’ve found their clan.
I'm excited to share this inside look into Tokyo with you, full of phantom samurais, extreme nerd culture, spooky robots, and compelling ideas taking power in real lives.
* Not only are you physically unthreatened, but your possessions are safe as well. I've seen plenty of Japanese set their cell phones or purses on a table to save it, and then walk around a corner to order. Japanese are known to bring cash found on the sidewalk to the police station. The one exception is the neighborhood of Roppongi where foreigners go to drink. Don't leave your purse on a table in Roppongi.
** There have been some clever measures taken to prevent people from jumping, some of which you'll see in the episode.
Watch this episode on the Travel Channel this Saturday at 9PM
I'm Jonathan Legg
The road has been my greatest teacher.. challenging stagnant beliefs, disarming prejudices, and developing understanding of others. I hope the content on this blog will bring a sliver of that juju to you.