Mark Guthrie: Halloween may be the scary season, but Nagoya can be creepy anytime of year!
As Halloween approaches, our thoughts naturally turn to the morbid, the macabre and the terrifying. We all like to be scared out of our wits from time to time, but why wait for Halloween? Our fair city can give us the willies all year round. Here is just a sample of Nagoya’s devilish delights.
The Scariest… Food
As any high schooler knows, when they ask their new gaijin ALT “What do you like Japanese food?” the answer is always the same. “Sushi”. Oh, sushi’s tops isn’t it. It’s not cooked is it? Fish? That’s not cooked? Look at how hardcore we are, munching away on raw fish… Pah! Don’t make me laugh. You want hardcore? Well, get your gums around a plate of chicken sashimi. Yeah, you heard me. Raw liver, heart and breast. Salmonella? Salmonella’s for pussies!
The Scariest… Job
“Creatures crawl in search of blood, to terrify your neighborhood… and the grizzly ghouls from every tomb are closing in to seal your doom.”
Though he didn’t quite grasp the ability to rhyme consistently, James Earl Jones certainly captured how it must feel to be a member of SKE48.
While the dancing dolls may look happy, perky and super genki, there can be no doubt that each time they take to the stage, they are staring their mortality in the face. This is because, out there in the crowd, amongst the squealing teenyboppers are the potential carriers of their doom. For every middle-aged, podgy faced otaku with a computer-glare complexion and suspiciously soft palms is just one head-voice away from a snatch, grab and a ‘it rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again’ scenario. Think you know Thriller, Mr. Jones? You don’t know shit.
The Scariest… Restaurant
There are many ways for thrill seekers to spend a day out. Some go to murder-mystery nights. Some ride roller coasters. Some poke hornets’ nests and others find the biggest, angriest man in a pub and throw peanuts at him whilst questioning his mother’s virtue. These experiences are for lightweights. Real thrill seekers go to Mountain Coffee. Feet sticking to the floor is a good indication of the sort of fare you will be served, as are the grease patches on the furniture. From matcha pasta, spaghetti and ice cream to squid-flavored shaved ice. That’s real fear.
The Scariest… Nightclub
There are only two reasons why a nightclub may be situated out of town: 1) It is highly exclusive and its inaccessibility keeps the riffraff out or, 2) The clientele are so terrifying that they are rightly shunned by polite society. As Nagoya Jail is situated alongside the Nagoya Expressway (a club on a motorway for Christ’s sake!) it can be safely assumed that it is the latter. This is a club that charges by the hour and specializes in S&M and ‘sexy times’. Think From Dusk Till Dawn’s Titty Twister, multiplied by an adult nappy fetish and you’re somewhere in the right pant-wetting ballpark.
The Scariest… Gym
The only thing that should be hair-raising when going to the gym is getting on the scales after a lengthy absence. Not at Biwajima Sports Center. No, here it is a healthy fear of the customers that doesn’t really strike until you head for the showers. It is then you notice that the burly men with long sleeved t-shirts and calf length shorts are so covered because every inch of that skin (ok, maybe not every inch, I didn’t look that closely to be honest) is beautifully decorated in ink. And you know what that means, don’t you. So, the next time you visit, when that muscle-bound man is bellowing at you as you labour with your dumbbells, you better prey that they are fist-pumping words encouragement, because the alternative is just too chilling to contemplate.
The Scariest… Park
Nagoya is fortunate in that it has many charming city parks. Meijo Koen is beautiful and basks in the shadow of majestic Nagoya Castle. Higashiyama Koen has the zoo and the elegant botanical gardens, and Nakamura Koen is the place to be for the annual hanami parties. Yes, these parks are lovely, even in the dead of the night. Not so Ikeda Koen. Unless you are after a Filipino prostitute or in the mood for hacking up a Chinese gangster with a katana, then Ikeda Koen is definitely a place to avoid. Truly, truly frightening.
The Scariest… Realization
We all like to think we’re still with ‘it’. Or if not quite with ‘it’, we at least have a slight handle on what ‘it’ is. A short jaunt around Osu Kannon’s shopping mall will make you realise that you haven’t got a fucking clue. There are shops selling penguin hats, or native American hippy threads. Spin and Base sell strange low price hipster chic, while there are ton of vintage stores selling clothes that one would presume had come from the Mad Hedgehogs In A Bag Clothing Collective. There’s even a shop called Mingy! Really! On top of that, nearly everyone is dressed like they come from a Luc Besson epileptic dream. It’s always unnerving to find you have lost ‘it’, but if Osu is anything to go by, do you really want ‘it’ anyway. If you did, that would be scary.
The Scariest… Music Scene
Whilst not quite as preposterous as the Visual Kei scene from which it has sprung, Nagoya Kei is still pretty perturbing. Of course the bands themselves would like to think that, as they flit around in their Emo-a-like mohawks hawking their UK punk/death metal ethos, that it is their tunes and general demeanour that strikes fear into the hearts of the passer-by. But this is not the case. In fact they aren’t awfully scary at all. No, they’re just scarily awful.
The Scariest… Conbini Product
On the face of it it’s a botulism recipe. Take various cooked meats, veg and eggs and store together. Keep away from refrigeration and place in water just warm enough to allow bacteria to fester. Next, leave open to the elements and sneezes of the general public as it is placed on the store counter. Served by cash handling store clerks who may or may not have strong opinions about washing their hands after cleaning the bathroom, and there you have it. Even the Norse god of war with whom Oden shares a close homophone is less scary than this creepy conbini concoction.
The Scariest… Place to Live
There are some sketchy places to live in Nagoya, but WHO you live with is probably more of a concern than WHERE. If you arrived in Japan looking to fully ingratiate yourself into Japanese life and culture, yet find yourself living with a bunch of gaijin, then you are nothing more than a frozen lasagne in the oven. If you are sharing your waking (and even somnolescent) hours with Peter, Jenny, Simon and Claire, you have failed. You are just like every other bloody gaijin in the country. And that, my friends, is the scariest thought of all.