To say that Japan is a place of contrasts – this means nothing, nothing more a cliché. Shallow commentary, even for a one-time visitor like me. But applied to travel, “a place of contrasts” should serve as polite euphemism for a grandiose WTF?!! You see, men in blue jumpsuits are rappelling down Osaka Castle wall, meticulously tending to the creeping vines. And Pachinko parlours are screaming, screaming and sucking the life and yen out from the fatigued and lonely-looking mums and dads there.
There’s no point, no value in making any sense of it. Well, okay maybe there is value there, but I find it a lot more entertaining to just throw these disparate pieces together and see WTF comes out of it. A classy little cafe, the owner proud as can be to pull out an original pressed thick vinyl disk. Bing. Mexicali Rose. Crank up the springs on the talking phonograph, and marvel at the technology. Elegant nostalgia, authentica.
And downtown a train hop away, Japanese kids are releasing hormones and burning energy in bizarre game bazaars (does anyone say ‘arcade’ anymore?) Full body kinetic contraptions, pixelated codes of command streaming by as fast as the human retina can scan them, astonishing physical dexterity on display, learned via trance. Human Tetris.
Any trace of craft or art? Technological dream state. Mexicali Rose, goodbye…
These images are all part of a unique foodie book project.
Itamae: My Life in Front of the Cutting Board is the story of Chef Avi Sternberg’s journey as a foreigner through the hard knock school of Kaiseki cuisine, the hierarchy of the kitchen, and life as a Westerner in Japan.