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Mount Fuji Buddhist Temple Trance Dance Speed Rave
I met Ayako during a long night in Roppongi. In addition to her overnighter dancing at Gas Panic, she had agreed to staff the ticket table at a trance rave near Mount Fuji the next day. I was invited. And I certainly didn't have anything better to do.

Fuji-Sama Sometime

She picked me up at 6.30pm, and we finally arrived at the grassy patch of dirt and rocks at 3.30am. We hours driving in Tokyo between convenience store and house, picking up odds and ends, and delaying our departure time to such a degree that when she finally nosed her family's blue Toyota station wagon onto the freeway, she was inclined to more than double the speed limit of 70 kph up towards 180 kph. This was certainly exciting, and a viable way to make up for lost time. But the other drivers were not taking into account a full steam lady whose intention was to brake within meters of an obstinate car. When trucks pulled into the lane ahead of us, any possible time to notify us was eliminated by our rate of speed twice theirs. She would curse them out. I was panting and groping the handles and surfaces in the car by this time; I finally said in English, "it doesn't matter whose fault it is, it only matters who is dead." Which she didn't get literally but she probably understood. I collected myself and added "watashitachi to truck to de wa, do chi ra no ho ga ookii des ka?" Which is bigger the truck, or us? And I saw her stern side, locked down serious tired driving against my slow pleas and rationalist humor.

After this freeway marathon of going too far and doubling back we were to spend many hours driving about the backroads around mount Fuji. I can report that the world's most photographed and depicted mountain is surrounded by low underbrush and farms. A six-point buck deer met us in the road. Ayako stopped the car when she saw a cow on the roadside; it was too cute to continue.

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Riding fast in the car, a friend in the back seat.

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Some comments make her more stern.

Fuji-Sama Finally

Finally cars filled the roadside; groups of young Japanese folks wearing colored layers dragged possessions down the side of the road. These were dance refugees on their way to a camp. The camp was a rocky patch of barren ground between the mountain and the rest of the world. The first evident claim had been staked here by Buddhists; they had a temple and graveyard, off to the side of the DJ tent painted with a large florescent eye.

Tents ringed a loose crowd of independent dancers. Small groups gathered around fire and heat sources. Loud pounding robotic trance music echoed into the night. In the distance, a dark mountain.

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Buddhist temple, Trance temple.

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Fuji by night. Unobscured, inscrutable.

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Try dancing on this kind of rocky stuff!

Jacky

I walked into the standing structure on these grounds, standing between the quivering young freaks and the dead who afforded their own burial under stone and monument. Inside was packed with huddling sub-tribes of friends and proximities, people seeking a warm refuge who didn't have their own tents. I found a place on the floor and as I commenced to describe the world around me with a pen in my own language I was greeted by some gregarious young Japanese men. one fairly well stuck his face against my own and said in exaggerated tones "i'm jacky" as though his tongue were too big for his mouth; this was somehow funny for his friends.

I pointed to the ceiling. There, kanji characters had been brush-painted, giving the room a pillow book ambiance. What did these mean, I asked? I couldn't read them, and didn't have my dictionary. "Liss-en, Juss-tin," jacky's tongue was still too big for his mouth. He began to reel off some Japanese that made people nearby laugh or uncomfortable, clearly translating what was Buddhist wisdom from the ceiling into raunchy poetry where we laid on the floor. He would say each phrase and have me repeat them. I was ambivalent, not wanting to disturb the mellow "vibe" happening in the room with intense foreigner vulgarity, but I felt slightly permitted since my guide was this bold fool. So I kept up which provoked him further. I think I learned to say things like, when I have to take a shit, I often fart, don't stand in my way. All this in a song. As I lost my sense of propriety and he came to trust me as a playmate, he challenged me to stand and mimic his movements as I learned new songs. "I'm a horny old man, yes I am, I'm a horny old man" - I was standing and singing, in front of two or three dozen tripping Japanese trance-music geeks. I think he wasn't expecting me to participate; unfortunately the standup raunchy tutorial ran out of material fast.

Back on the rice-matted floor of the temple, Jacky and friends snort some white powder over a small vial. What is that? "rush" he says. he begins to flip through my notebook. Wherever there is Japanese he corrects it. He writes these dirty lyrics for me in Katakana.

Somehow the conversation turns to host clubs; as it turns out two of these young blokes work in a Shinjuku host bar. This could be my entry into the world; though after being thoroughly whelmed by this agro-vulgar banter, I'm not sure I can keep up with speed snorting professional flirts. Still I felt a strong value to being taught raunch on the temple floor; the spirit of Ikkyu and the fool was reminding me that this was just a building and on the ceiling might be the four noble truths, but you'd still find the red thread on the floor of the temple. At least aging and desire, certainly.

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What are those characters on the ceiling, I asked?

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Hello Jacky, Hello Juss-tin

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The temple altar had been ringed by florescent string nailed between the ceiling and floor. This boy was the only one sitting by the altar when I entered, he occasionally rang the a bowl bell. And later snorted speed.

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Jacky fixes my glasses during the "horny old man" song so I look more like a horny old man. Then we have our picture taken.

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Jacky reads and corrects my book by a blue light.

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The entire group of fast-yakking laughing raunchy teachers gathered outside later for a photo.

where am i?

At once I was feeling overwhelmed by my thesis - seeing the rebirth of Japanese culture all around me. It was centered on one delusion, according to jacky, this was a Shinto temple. So here I was thinking that this was modern Shintoism, pagan behaviour on timeless grounds at the foot of the mountain. here were Japanese youth pulling their heads up from their colleges and careers to return to pre-cultural tradition. Eat that naysayers. But then there was little I could see immediately to tell me this was Japanese. The "trance culture" is a global polyglot, a jumble of India, San Francisco, Manchester, Detroit and Tokyo. You're likely to see citizens of any or all countries drift through any gathering. Here most of the citizens were young Japanese, but to stand far back from the DJ table you would never know. The same range of ordinary high school dudes and styled out folks. Many people doing the small and intricate personal behaviour of acid. This gathering might be exciting as a transgression against modern Japanese society, but people wearing florescent saris and dancing around in the dust to robotic techno music is not an explicitly native Japanese expression of transgression.

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The view from the DJ table.

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By night, someone set up a mirror mountain.

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Morning sees the two temples.

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A long view of most of the dance floor, with accommodations to the rear.

I photographed people at the rave to see if I could later see something that would help me understand something about Japan today. I would have interviewed them; my Japanese wasn't ready.

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The Alpha and the Omega

In the morning, a pounding rainstorm killed the music and drove everyone indoors. Here, crowded into the temple with wet, sleeping, shivering, strung out Japanese kids, there sat at the front a single sensei conducting classes on the older spirits.

He'd occasionally play an old instrument like bells or a bowl with a resounding ring. I was about to leave with my friends when the event organizer urged us to say: Old Man Monk was going to be whacking everyone with the Zen stick.

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This old man conducted classes.

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Kids lined up to get whacked.

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Head down.

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Hands up. (Thanks Ayako, for the photo).

My two ladyfriends spent the night working as gatekeepers, pressing newcomers for the 3000 yen entry fee. Towards morning that meant mostly eating asparagus-flavoured breadsticks and smoking cigarettes in a warm car.

After we had been whacked and the We slept in the car. We woke and ate in a town ringed by trees in fall colors. I bought each of us vitamin C fizzy drinks at the 7-11, as we were often coughing. We passed out again by the onramp back to Tokyo, waking up hours later as the evening set in. Finally the fog cleared off Mount Fuji, and Ayako grabbed the wheel again.

In that car, it was never clear what was happening. I realized that I'd allow myself to become lazy. Because I couldn't understand most Japanese I'd stopped listening until I was directly spoken to. This must be a critical difference between those people who stay years and never learn much, and the people who are here and pick it up. Participation. On every level. Here are two old friends taking a roadtrip with a random foreigner. Most of the conversation was about such-and-such a friend and what was happening with their job or relationship. If I was in an English-speaking situation, I would be listening and asking questions. So after hours of vegetating, typing, writing, doing whatever solitary activities could stimulate and utilize me alone in a car with two chainsmoking foreigner friends, I determined to participate. Early on, this lead to some moments where I would listen to them talk for ten minutes, recognize one word, and then announce some simple sentence using that word. it was a real inaccessible way to participate in conversation. I tried more active listening after that.

It's a strange sort of holiday or vacation where people don't expect you to talk, know where you're going, or contribute to what is going on. Of course when the urge strikes, you're often unable to communicate about it. It's like being a child again.

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A long night passed.

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Fall trees ring this town.

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At the local 7-11 near Mount Fuji, you can order soup with various brown things floating in it. Here are the various brown floating things on display. This sort of sight is not infrequent in Japan; though I have yet to taste this variety of food.

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Sleeping in the car.

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Evening falls, the fog lifts off of Fuji, the lights come on to illuminate a roadside warpgate.

On the way back, we stopped at a rest stop. This was the experience of driving across Japan.

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The Ishikawa Happy Square roadside rest stop on the way back to Tokyo. In front, there were many small stalls selling different kinds of hot greasy meat. Inside, a shop for last minute "Omiyage," or requisite Japanese souvenir gifts.

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I was somehow immediately impressed by the Yakitori stand, selling small, cheap sticks skewering chicken or pork. I ordered one of each, whatever that was. It was chewy. Too chewy.

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The girls I was with favoured the hot crispy pastry covered hot dogs served up at this stall, here pictured in the lower-right corner.

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Somewhere between grocery, souvenir and strange prank are these foodstuff and liquid filled bags.

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