Moshi moshi! I am in Tokyo and it's 10a.m. as I write this. I feel so far away from New York, in a good way, and yet there is much here that is not dissimilar from home. The fourteen hour flight that terrified me in advance was fine in retrospect. Like the infinite blackness of the night sky pooling inkily among the stars, it's far easier to admire it than to contemplate its essential nature. Because it just goes on and on... Instead, I felt gratitude for the fact that I literally couldn't remember the last time I didn't have to answer the phone or send an email or do something work-related for that period of time. Of course, halfway through the flight, I realized I had forgotten the one thing I had made a serious effort (and at significant expense; the rush shipping was much more than the purchase price) to acquire, my coveted travel pillow, which I had dubbed Mercutio, because I had hoped to have the wisdom of a clever confidant close at hand for the long trip. Ah alas, I left him behind, so no "I will bite thee by the ear for that jest" or any other. A few weeks ago, when I was reviewing some background materials in order to write the press release for 1000Stories, I came across a passage that filmmaker Florian Thalhofer wrote to explain the project that stuck in my head just before I left for Omaha, and resonates still, perhaps even more, given the nature of travel and seeing new experiences through the lens of one's perspective with all its inherent pitfalls and preconceptions:
"1000Stories is a kind of scientific experiment. Two representatives of different cultures visit each other’s culture and try to get closer to it via film and art. For a spectator in Germany, I’ll be somehow the local expert. But actually I’m no expert at all. I will often get caught in cultural traps in the U.S.; I won’t understand things because I lack the cultural background. In 1000Stories you’ll also see an American in Germany who’s becoming a victim of cultural misunderstandings again and again and often without noticing it—while I’m experiencing the same thing in the U.S. The spectator is supposed to develop a feeling for the cultural differences and understand that as a German I can only report on the U.S. from a German’s perspective and that I can’t be objective at all."So that's been on my mind, because when I think about the things I expected Tokyo to be, based on what I'd heard in the U.S., I kind of feel like a fool in retrospect. It's an amazing, beautiful, magical place, but the boundlessly "weird" vibe I anticipated is noteably absent. Japan's just different. And in some ways, much the same. More on that later.