Sometime during the fourteen-hour flight between New York and Tokyo, Toby reached over from his seat which was directly behind mine and handed me a book titled: HOW TO BEHAVE IN JAPAN or something equally pragmatic; as if to say, “Read this or you will misbehave badly.”
The book proved to be a handy little companion guiding us on all matters of etiquette in Japan such as never pointing but always waving in the general direction of the object or person one wants to draw attention to.
The Japanese are manifestly polite, so much so, that it would take a blind person an instant to see it. The Japanese are also the most concordable people you are ever likely to meet. As our book pointed out, “during a typical conversation a Japanese person will constantly say 'Hai' which means 'Yes', thus, making it seem as if they entirely agree with you.” However, as the book also points out, “This is not the case. 'Hai' or 'Yes' does not mean that they agree with you but it is their way of showing you that they are paying attention to you.”
In my mind I played out a scenario in which I would say to our promoter, “So you are going to pay us $10,000 for playing one show?” To which he would reply, “Hai”, only to give me $500 and my tail to put between my legs. How can you hold anyone accountable when “Yes” doesn't mean “Yes”?
Well, the truth is, the system works because when a Japanese person makes you a bona fide offer or promise it is as good as a contract signed in blood. This is the biggest discovery of our first twenty-four hours in Japan.
Japan, in many ways, is the adaptation of heaven on earth. A land in which the exasperating inefficiency of America, or at the very least its music industry, the corruption that is the pegs and wheels of the live circuit, are replaced with an equable, unflappable, de facto perfection.
The other thing we discovered about the Japanese is that they do not blab about themselves.
Discreet is the word. Gul, our tour manager is a perfect example. She must have been no more than ten feet away from us the entire time we were in Japan and during this time her and I must have spoken candidly a hundred times. She would always listen to me considerately and always respond, in hindsight, diplomatically, and even when necessary cajole me into her way of thought.
Yet, after all the time spent and after all this talk, even when she stayed up until five AM just to make sure I would be awake to go to the fish market at six AM, I only have a traced outline, a sketch perhaps, of her real self. Yet, Gul, Kuma, and the rest of our crew, will forever be declared by us as saintly.
How do the Japanese do it? I am not really sure. Perhaps it is their sincerety, perhaps something else; something more mystical. Eitherway, we blabed and misbehaved and I am sure, in their company we must have said and done a hundred faux pas. But did they ever let on? Of course not.
So, I could lie and say we loved Japan because the venues were filled with screaming girls waiting for hours to see us, get autographs, have a picture taken and even get a hug. I could lie to you and say that we loved Japan because it is great to open magazines and see your face across a two-page spread or to appear on mega radio stations. In a sense none of these are lies but the truth is: our hearts have gravitated towards Japan because their kindness crippled our jaded minds.
For more about Buddahead, aka Raman Kia, and his band, visit buddaheadmusic.com