The quintessential non-place, purposely devoid of any cultural landmark in order to facilitate the translation to other “international hubs”.
International, not because they draw links between nations, but because they have been stripped of all national clues. The coffee I’m drinking here in a lounge in Amsterdam is anything but Dutch. In airports, only international references are allowed, that is what today’s self-proclaimed industrial countries have deemed international: gender-based toilet signs, the red glow of Time Magazine on the newspaper stalls, and the insistent assimilation od sandwiches and Mars bars as food. Even local products are reduced to their symbolism: Matterhorn-ornamented chocolate in Geneva, round Gouda cheese here.
This imaginary neutrality is necessary for these places to function as hubs, or high-speed connection nodes. But what you pay for by going through the over-zealous anti-terrorist theme park and the dull waiting sessions at your boarding gate is not speed; it is the brutal, non-linear transition to your destination. And indeed, 14 hours of flight are nowhere close to sufficient to cope with the culture-lag of landing in Tokyo.
Through this writing experiment, I hope to convey both a sense of wonder and of reflection about Japan. To humbly cite two references, I was recently charmed by Roland Barthes’ L’empire des signes, for his self-assumed hijacking of Japanese symbols to base his own fantasy culture upon and Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, for the committed insanity of his exploration of the American Dream through gonzo journalism.
In short, without abusing too much of the intellectual pedantism of the former, and the enormous quantities of drugs of the latter, I will attempt to deliver a live draft that is neither culturally accurate nor merely superficial, neither pure fiction nor quite unambiguously true; a personal take on the Western Japanese Fantasy.