Ari Gato -- Thank You, Japan

I am getting close to ending my amazing trip to Japan -- two more days and I'm gone. And, as you can imagine, part of me is already feeling the sadness of departing.

I'm staying in an intense and lively neighborhood called Shinjuku. I've walked around this area and enjoyed some amazing Japanese restaurants. Besides my investigations into the Chicano-Japan connection (including Chicano music shows, LA-style car shows, and Cholo-style stores), I've met truly wonderful and lovely people.

Oki Kiyota, the editor of Subaru magazine, and Yoshi Koshikawa, head of the English Department at Meiji University, invited me to lunch and for an interview. Subaru is one of Japan's leading literary publications. Last year, they published a translation of my short story "Las Chicas Chuecas" from my short story collection, The Republic of East LA.

I was also interviewed by Kenichi Eguchi, a writer for Barfout! magazine (he also translated my story for Subaru). In addition, I was interviewed for Lowrider Magazine in Japan, including by Teruyuki Matsushima, Vice Editor in Chief -- my work, especially Always Running, is known among some literary as well as Chicano/Lowrider circles in this vastly interesting country.

Yesterday, I toured different sections of Tokyo with my Chicana friend (originally from Peru, she grew up Chicana in Oakland and spent a short time in Mexico City), Favianna Rodriguez. We traveled by subway during a Japanese holiday honoring labor (the trains weren't as crowded as normal). We also got a chance to visit a massive and ancient Buddhist Temple in Asakusa.

Shuzo Saito, an English Literature professor who specializes in Chicano writers, joined us later in the day. We visited Omote-sando where throngs of people filled the sidewalks for shopping and enjoying their day off. We also visited a crowded park and stadium. And we had a wonderful lunch at a fantastic restaurant specializing in fruit dishes.

I want to thank in particular Shin Miyata, proprietor of Barrio Gold/Music Camp Entertainment, and the main focus of my magazine piece. His work is vital and so valued -- connecting Chicano music to Japanese audiences. Through him, I was able to take part in the Quetzal/dGomez promotional tour, and to visit lowrider groups and a Chicano/Hip Hop retail shop called Nicety (run by Rikiya Kando) in Machida-shi in Tokyo and Wannabe's (owned by Masayuki Tachibana, managed by Kousake Sakata) in Chiba-shi in Chiba-ken. He also arranged a great radio interview on Power 046-FM in Yamato-shi in Kanawaga-ken that addressed issues of Chicano culture and consciousness, hosted by Masahiro "Cholo" Wada.

I also want to thank Shin's staff, including Emilio Sayrock Nishino, Miho Nagaya, and Miho Okamoto, for being so helpful and welcoming. All of them took me to a funky Mexican restaurant called, appropriately, Junkadelic. The food was great, however, and this coming from an expert on these matters. The guacamole and salsa were fresh and tasty.

Later, I merenqued and rhumbaed at the Cafe Latino for a short time in the mostly foreigner club hangout district known as Roppongi. The next day, we had more talks and I conducted more interviews for my piece. That evening we ate at a leading Japanese restaurant in Omote-sando.

I'm sorry if I missed thanking others whose names I can't remember and who also went out of their way to make my trip here as comfortable and as productive as possible. I thank you all, including "Masa," Masayuki of Wannabe's, who picked me up from the airport, and the rest of the Wannabe's crew -- ari gato.

Also Sound Base in Ichihara-shi in Chiba-ken, Tower Records/Shibuya, and the Bird Cafe in Shimokitazawa, Setagaya-ku in Tokyo for hosting Quetzal, Martha, David, Laura, and myself for a couple of nights of music and poetry readings (and the amazing contribution of Tex Nakamura to our sets).

The next couple of days I'll be spending finishing interviews and doing more research. I also hope to see more sights.


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