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Speed Tribes: Days and Nights with Japan's Next Generation

Speed Tribes: Days and Night's with Japan's Next Generation - Karl Taro Greenfeld suggestively-linked vignettes that confront the question, is it innocent Anglo-Saxon Westerners being seduced by the corrupt Japan or innocent sober Japanese being seduced by the drug-addled foreigner? meditation on appearances vs. reality, living in the moment vs. planning for the future, the potential of the individual vs. the cohesion of the group. Greenfeld "dog-whistles" or "winks at the Japan insider" with little twists of phrase, demonstrating an insider's knowledge of what the people know and what the people will never get (he appeals to the broad audience with one layer of story, but for the language-speaker or those familiar with the culture, he winks knowledge of what is going on). flows his stories in such a fashion as to comment one on the other.

the Japan writer is faced with the existential dilemma: do I write about sumo wrestlers, geisha girls and Mt. Fuji and attract a mass audience (viz., presenting "tourist's eye view of Japan") or do I write about the gritty authenticity of the glue-sniffing streets and be unknown? only the very best, such as as Greenfeld, manage to present everything all at once, such that it's uncertain where the drugs are talking and where the social realities. author plays on authorial uncertainty/narrative unreliability, and even makes his next book about 'memoirist whose made-up memoirs are about to be uncovered.'

[Tats] wanted to tell them all about the Shonan Run, about the tear gas and methampetamine and newspaper reports...and--he suddenly remembered Yamada, riding out of the rising sun on his motorcycle, and shivered. He didn't want to think about Yamada. He didn't want to think about the pistol. Instead, he yawned as some pimple-faced punk talked at length about his new Yoshimura header pipes.

There is no mention of "the American reporter" attending this gathering of motorcycle riders. How would Greenfeld know second-by-second exactly what the subject of his sociological research is thinking, in the fifteenth hour of a three day rave, what the subject didn't want to think about, and then down to the very split-second, his yawn? This is literary writing rather than non-fiction research. (see 'Million Tiny Pieces,' 'My Buddy Reagen' etc etc etc). but we forgive Greenfeld's embellishments for moments like this:

He looked her over. 'Oh fvck it, who cares. Hey do you want a trip?"

She didn't understand.

"A trip, some Ecstasy."

She knew that word. She had heard about this wonderful drug called Ecstasy that was supposed to make you feel happy or joyful. She scanned the room. So that's what everyone was doing.


He also told her he was from somewhere called South Yarra in Melbourne. Handsome, charming, and he would be back in Australia in a few months. Australia with its Statue of Liberty holding up a flashlight.

Is this corrupt West preying on innocent Japan? Or terminally decadent Japan completely out-sophisticating yabbo West? Or supersophisticate Greenfeld, simultaneous ultimate insider and ultimate outsider conning us all? Only demographics in the end have answered these questions, as Japan's average age climbed last year to 44, and the population shrunk 1.7% (more if illegal Chinese immigration wasn't counted)...

The south entrance of Ueno Park was a wide, granite stairwell whose sweep and epic scale was similar to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. But the grandstairway had lately come to resemble a Middle Eastern bazaar. At open-air stalls mustachioed Iranians grilled shish kebabs and round flat, floury loaves of bread.

And then this quote finally contains the third important usefulness of the work, the insight into how things were in 1988-1995 (time period of the work). Certain authors such as [a:Shusaku Endo] comment on what a street scene was like at what particular year, and in Tokyo, the scenes change a bit from decade to decade, if seemingly in patternless ways. (Today Ueno Park is back to Japanese blue-plastic tarp homeless. No more Iranians. Roppongi has gotten far more African then ten years ago.)

brilliant work 5/5 contains deeper truth even if some scenes seem to delve far too knowingly into thought of strangers.

remaining thoughts: focuses on youth right at moment when Japan gets middle-aged/elderly; "magazine" style influence of magazine-article writer, plays a bit with factual truth for interesting content.

(as other GR reviewer notes, would be fascinating to learn what happened to various subjects of vignettes 10 years out.)

a good read 5/5

Tats' gang is the Tokyo chapter of the Midnight Angels; chapter VII, Kazu, who used to run Kill Everybody, is kidnapped by MA. There's the echo of an Ecstasy-related one night stand; Keiko chapter V sleeps with an Australian after she does E; chapter VII Kazu gives E to Hiroko <-- creates a deliberate mood effect of deja vu(?)--maybe not.<br/>

related books: [a:Jake Adelstein|3001096|Jake Adelstein|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1297479214p2/3001096.jpg] researches Yakuza as crime reporter for the Daily Yomiuri; [a:Tom Wolfe|3083854|Tom Wolfe|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1350592993p2/3083854.jpg] rides with the Hells' Angels and writes a book.

does some interesting narratological tricks. ends chapter IV, choco bon bon with about a 60% ambiguity that the character is going to overdose.


but Chocoball lives...

chapter Xi, 'homestay,' seems to suggest moto is going to get the mother of all beatings. (unclear) so, deliberate narratological tricks to suggest 'death' when such an ending may not be present.

differs from [b:Shutting out the Sun|25351|Shutting Out the Sun How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation|Michael Zielenziger|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320493493s/25351.jpg|26092] & other / modern preoccupation with cults / religions / psychodisorders. (Greenfeld's book 1994; Aum Shinrikyo attacks 1995; 9/11 of course 2001). portrait of a Japan right before all the extreme signs of decay set in; Grenfeld has identified the subcultures / superficial consumers / low-levels gangsters as objects of interest, which beats the 'green tea and flower arranging' crowd of japan-culture self-delusionists.

overall, Speed Tribes is an important, well-researched academic work, a glossy magazine write-up of tokyo street life, an insider's view of a reclusive culture, and a portrait of self-destruction on the verge. fascinating and authentic look at early 90s Japan, right as the bubble burst and before it became evident that the crash was permanent.

what is amazing is how little Japan has changed on in the inside in twenty years rather than how much


chapter I. Izumi has a BMW and a Nissan Sylvia

Suzuki GSX-R 750s, similar to the 400 driven by Tats in Chapter II; the 750s stolen in chapter III "a biking enthusiast's bike, not a delivery boy's or student's"

"Choco Bon-Bon" dreams of a Karmann Ghia

"Bodicon" style

the iconic Yasuda auditorium, symbol of Todai

Hotei Tomoyasu guitarist for Complexx Boowy

Zi:Kill, chapter VIII; before their almost break-up

silver-gray Toyota Hilux Surf

Chisato Moritaka