Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ikebukuro – Where the Saitama farmers go to get drunk

Watch out for the Saitama rednecks!
Mother Salaryman left Japan for Sweden over 40 years ago now and has not looked back much.

Before I moved over to Japan and gave her a bridgehead to launch further advances into the country, she visited only a handful of times over the years. Also, before the age of the Internet, staying in touch with Japan was not particularly easy and getting her hands on a few used old Japanese magazines from the only Japanese goods shop in Sweden took considerable effort and cost a fortune.

So, in many ways, Mother Salaryman’s image of Japan is frozen to the 1960’s. I remember once when we were walking somewhere in Tokyo and we asked a policeman for directions which he very friendly gave us and Mother was quite shocked since “when I grew up here, all the policemen were so mean, how strange that this one was friendly”.

When I first moved to Japan and announced to her that I would be living in Ikebukuro her reaction was a despiteful “Ikebukuro? That’s where the farmers from Saitama go to get drunk and spend the money they get on booze and women! You should not live there, it's not a nice place!”. I laughed at her and told her that things have changed and it’s no longer the 1960’s…

This time though, I was proven wrong… Some things never change. Although I still like Ikebukuro and it’s sleazy “Shinjuku’s little brother without the sights” vibe, it does serve as the final outpost of Tokyo towards the wasteland that is called Saitama… It is of course annoying that Mother turned out to be right in the end, but it also taught me a lesson about the Saitama farmers... 

(So yeah, I changed my font from Arial to Trebutchet... Does anyone care or notice?)

10 comments:

Chris said...

I instantly recognized the change in font.

That might be a lie?

Without remembering how the previous font looked I'll get off the fence and say this one is better.

Everyone in Hawaii calls beach sandals ZORI's which the immigrating Japanese in the early 1900's used to call em. I came over here saying "I need a decent pair of Zori's" and it caused a few "WTF" looks.

A word trapped in time.

kathrynoh said...

I feel the most interesting part of this story hasn't been posted.

Even though I'm close to Ikebukuro, I really go there. I figure if I'm on the train, might as well go a few more stops.

Hanta said...

There's a lot of Chinese prostitutes in Ikebukuro...

Generic Jen B said...

I'm digging the Trebuchet.

BiggerInJapan said...

Trebuchet is a much better font. That may not be a lie.

Saitama, eh? Where's Octopussy when you need him?

Jeffrey said...

"Chris said...

Everyone in Hawaii calls beach sandals ZORI's . . ."

Actually, not "everyone." A lot of people, at least on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, call them rubber slippers. Can't speak to Oahu never having spent any time there.

However, a lot of Americans do use the colloquial phrase, "Just a skosh" (sukoshi) having no idea that it was brought home by GIs stationed in Japan in the 40s and 50s.

TheOctopus said...

Oh, lovely Ikebukuro. I used to live within reasonable walking distance, albeit in a much classier neighbourhood to the south, but rarely felt the need to go to what I term the "Gateway to South-Central Saitama" on good days and "Pondbag" on less good days. Last time I was there was to change trains after returning from the actually quite pleasant bit of western Saitama, though obviously I don't expect you to understand the difference, as you are obviously mentally scarred from your time in Ikebukuro, for which you have my fullest sympathies.

edo said...

Long time reader, first post!

I've always wondered, what prompted your mother to move to Sweden in the first place? I imagine there are not many Japanese immigrants there...

When I move to Japan in August I am thinking of joining the Japansk-Svenska Foreningen i Chubu.

I'm not Swedish, but recently I've become very interested in Sweden through the music. Do you listen to The Shout Out Louds, Studio, Air France, Lykke Li, Miike Snow, Jose Gonzalez, Peter Bjorn and John and/or Niki and the Dove? Also, I've always felt somewhat connected to Swedes since my father went to a Swedish missionary school in Addis Ababa. (We're now Lutheran, so I guess the proselytizing worked?) I was surprised to hear (from your post and also a Swedish friend) that nowadays most Swedes only go to church to get married, if that.

Anyway, kore kara mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu! I've always enjoyed your blog. It's laugh out loud funny.

Mr. Salaryman said...

Chris - Haha, ok, I'll keep the trebutchet for now then! Never heard of "Zori's"... I'll keep it in mind for the next trip over there!

Kathrynoh - Well, really isn't much you can find in Ikebukuro that you can't find in Shinjuku so you're not really missing out. But it's quite reasonable to find apartments over there compared to other "hot spots" like Shinjuku, Shibuya etc.

Hanta - Yep, seems like the Chinese mafia is quite strong there too, the Yakuza needs to step up ;)

JenB - Thanks, I'll keep trebutching the place up then!

Octopus - Don't get me wrong, I kinda like Saitama but I guess it's a bit like living close to the demilitarized zone between the two koreas. You always have the risk of some people invading from the bad side...

Edo - THanks for reading and nice to see you comment! I can't really say that I know any of those bands you mention... I've been away too long I think and don't really keep track of the newer bands (lykke Li I know though). You can try out the association in Chubu, but have the feeling that it's not too exciting. You can always go to a meeting and see if there's any fun people, but I seriously doubt it...

Martin J Frid said...

Trebuchet, zori and Ikebukuro in one and the same post? This Saitama wanna-be organic farmer got a much needed laugh out of that, thanks!!

Now I'll just go on watching old BBC The Good Life videos on YouTube.

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