Monday, November 21, 2005

Hawaii in Sapporo

Today I made the journey north, once again, to Sapporo.

I left at 9 A.M. But about five miles out, my car died. Flat out lost power and cruised to a stop. Luckily, I managed to get Wasabi-kun over to the side of the road before the engine crapped out. It took me about five minutes before I got the car started up again.

So I turned around and went back to a car shop in Muroran and asked them to check out what was wrong.

Their reply? "We don't know."

Huh?

Umm, okaaaaaay. And here I thought this was a professional car store. Oh well. I got back on the road and drove to Tomakomai. No more trouble, but the return trip had me a little concerned. More on this later.

I parked my car in the big parking garage next to the train station, and then went in and bought a round-trip ticket to Sapporo.

Why drive to Tomakomai and then switch trains? Why not just hop on the train in Muroran? Better yet, why not drive all the way to Sapporo?

There is a method to this madness, my friends.

Driving all the way to Sapporo and back puts the BIG HURT on your wallet. 3000 yen for a full tank of gas. 2000 yen for highway tolls from the East Tomakomai entrance and back. Another 1000 yen (at least) for parking. Plus four hours behind the wheel. So even before you add in the shopping and food costs, you're at least 6000 yen out of luck.

Compare this to a round trip ticket from Muroran - 4200 yen.

Wow! What a bargain, and no driving! So why not take the train from Muroran?

Because I would not have been able to catch a train back home in time. I would have had to leave from Sapporo Station before 10 P.M., and that wasn't likely to happen.

Why? In a minute.

So, I checked train schedules and costs, and decided that a compromise was the best plan. An hour to Tomakomai followed by a 45-minute train ride, then an hour-long trip back, all for 2600 yen. Not bad.

So why, pray tell, was I headed out to Sapporo in the first place?

To watch Hawaiian 6.

No, it's not the name of some marginal soft-core adult film. Hawaiian 6 is a Japanese punk band on the Pizza of Death label. (Pizza of Death? How freaking cool is that name? I would have listened to these guys on principle alone.)

I learned of the coolness that is Hawaiian 6 through my friend Aniki, who runs the live music house Salon Kitty in Matsyama, Ehime Prefecture. Aniki is one cool dude. I met him through Number Girl, at the after-party after their show in Hiroshima. We were introduced, and he said, "Call me Aniki. If you're ever in Matsuyama, give me a call. Let's hang out." It just so happened that I ended up going to Matsuyama the following month for my school's end of the year party, and we hung out and had a generally good time. That was my first time to go to Matsuyama, but after that, I went down that way a lot. Through Aniki (which literally means "big brother" but also has some Japanese mafia connections - the word, not my friend), I've gotten to know some really cool people, including Hawaiian 6.

I saw that they would be playing in Sapporo on the 20th of November, so on the day tickets went on sale, I went and snatched one up. I'd only seen Hawaiian 6 play three times before, twice at Disco Inferno, an outdoor concert hosted by Salon Kitty (FYI: I came up with the English copy on that page!) and once at Aniki's wedding reception. All three of these sets were really short, so I was really stoked to see a long Hawaiian 6 show.

Since I had no idea how late the show would run, I didn't feel comfortable attempting the Muroran train. I compromised and went with Tomakomai, since the last train bound that way left around 10:45 P.M.

I got in to Sapporo around 1 P.M., after filling up on a Seattle's Best Coffee Raspberry Mocha and brownie. Breakfast at 11:30 just can't be beat. Especially when it's an SBCRM&B.

The doors at the club didn't open until six, so I went for a really long walk. I did some shopping at the Tower Records, and then walked around Susukino.

Now, my good buddy The Czar talks about Vegas being a den of sin. He's obviously never visited Susukino.

Walk down the right back alley in Susukino and you can find anything. And I DO mean anything. Let me put it this way: when my guy friends in Shimane heard I was moving to Hokkaido, without fail every single one of them got a sly look in their eyes and said, "Alright! Susukino!"

I walked through Susukino once before, when I came up to Hokkaido to interview for the job I have now. I was staying in a hotel in Sapporo that night, and I decided to head out and see what everyone was so excited about.

WALL TO WALL PEOPLE. Girls and guys standing on the street corners trying to convince people to go into various shops. Said shops had different "courses" listed, at varying prices. Susukino is one big whorehouse. No lie. Every single potential customer walking through Susukino was being propositioned, with the exception of one.

Me.

This was a bit saddening and a bit frustrating. Yes, I had a scruffy beard and long hair, but hey, rejecting me as a potential customer just because I'm a scruffy looking white guy? Not cool! I'm not quite sure, but I think that walk through Susukino hurt my pride a bit. Not that I was seeking that sort of entertainment, mind you. I just wanted to be the one to refuse.

That time was at night. This time, it was during the day.

I don't think I've ever been that disturbed. I couldn't see a lot of Susukino the last time because it was dark and crowded. This time, I saw the sheer amount of shops offering "services". And some of the "services" being offered were downright sickening. Yeesh. But it makes for good copy.

Now on to the main point of the post: Hawaiian 6. I walked through Susukino to Nakajima Park and found Zepp Sapporo, the club where the show was going to be that night. When I got there, the drummer for Hawaiian 6 was outside. I waved and said hi. He got a strange look on his face, which was slowly replaced by recognition.

"Kidd?" All of the Matsuyama connection people call me "Kidd". I don't mind. It's a good name. It is my father's name, and his father's before him.
Me: "What's up?"
Drums: "Not much...what are you doing here?"
Me: "I moved up here in August."
Him: "No kidding. And you came out to see us play? Thanks, man!"

We chatted for a couple more minutes. Apparently, their previous show had been in Okinawa, and there was about a 35-degree difference in the temperatures of the two places. In Okinawa, they'd been cruising around in t-shirts and shorts. Then up to Hokkaido, where they had to have heavy jackets and layered clothing. Probably not the best thing to do to your body, but that's the music biz for ya. He went in and snagged me a tour t-shirt that featured a picture of Abdullah the Butcher and a band towel with a picture of Muhammad Ali. (Don't worry, Czar. You're covered.) Thank you, HATANO!

6 P.M. and the doors open. 7 P.M. and the show starts. There were two opening acts, one of which was a surprise act. They were all right, but they weren't who I came to see. Every minute another band played brought me closer to my train's departure time. Enough with the opening acts! Bring out Hawaiian 6!

A quick sidenote on the band's name: Hawaiian has no special meaning. They just liked the sound of it. The "6"...well, see, there's three guys in the band, and they each have two...ya know, things that guys have that ladies don't. 3 x 2 = 6. I heard this directly from the band members, so it's gotta be true.

Unless they were messing with me.

So out comes Hawaiian 6, and the crowd goes nuts. I was just behind the mosh pit, which was blocked off by a bit. This kept crazy moshers from slamming into me. Good news. Their set was fantastic. Some of the songs can be a bit repetitive, and sometimes the singer's English isn't easily understood, but they play punk in a minor key, and it gives these incredibly energetic songs a distinct sadness. I'm not well-versed in the world of punk, but Hawaiian 6 is the only band I know of that does this well. The other really cool thing about their set was when they played an anti-war song.

Hatano: "War sucks. What's the point of going out and killing other people? It's a pathetic situation. But let me ask you, how many of you have fought in a war? No one? Me neither. So we sit here saying 'War sucks!' like we know all about it. We tried to write this song from the perspective of someone who fought in a war. The message is what's important. To all of you warmongers running the world right now, KISS MY @$$!" Wham!

Okay, so I didn't translate that as well as I could have. But what he said just hit me, and while up until that point I had been bobbing my head and jumping around a bit to the music, I just had to stand there and take in the song. Powerful, powerful stuff.

They came out for THREE encores. Just a great band. Really good guys too.

Once the show was over, I caught the subway back to Sapporo Station, as I only had about fifteen more minutes until my train left. I made the train, and relaxed on my way back to Tomakomai. Once I got there and got in my car, my troubles began again.

Yep! More car trouble. This time, on the way back, my car died three times. I panicked, because I had no way of getting home other than my car. The last train to Muroran had already left. I had to get my car back home. Somehow, miraculously, I made it back safely. Man, am I beat. I hope Wasabi-kun is okay.

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