Why Visit Japan, Part II

Nishiarai prefecture in Tokyo, Japan; Summer 2018

Nishiarai prefecture in Tokyo, Japan; Summer 2017

The year was 1998, and I was about seven or eight years old. I remember that it was some time just after school when my brother and I had gotten back home from Lockwood Elementary.

We’d sat down in the living room for what was supposed to be another afternoon hour of Batman and Superman on what was then known as the Kids WB, but that day, we were in for a surprise: as a band of characters from Japanese anime roared with life off the screen to meet us, Batman and Superman turned into afterthoughts. It was time for Pokemon, the animated series.

Although as a kids cartoon Pokemon hailed from an inherently magical world, there was also something almost nostalgic about their design, as if we had encountered their figures at some different time before. They moved swiftly, with energy in every motion, and interacted with pure curiosity towards one another and everything else around them.

From there, everything we thought we knew about cartoon heroes would be forever altered. They no longer had to wear suits and masks to cover up their identities, or be strictly “grown up” to save the world. They also didn’t need to drive fancy cars to drift through galaxies far unlike our own. And they could make mistakes too. Lots of them. They could be kids, just like we were, stumbling from one place to the next, and so we became inducted into the Pokemon universe.

And the series was just the beginning.

Not long after Pokemon’s cartoon series, Pokemon, the game for Gameboy Color stormed into our lives. Three different versions of it. We thus upgraded from our original Gameboy and Donkey Kong to a Gameboy Color for the Blue version of Pokemon.

And the game was even better than the series because it allowed us to live with our Pocket Monsters every day of the week at any time of the day with them, or at least it did for yours truly. I remember carrying my Gameboy Color with me everywhere, even underneath the covers when it was time to go to sleep. Back then, the Gameboy didn’t have its own LCD bright light to see the game screen through the dark, but I solved that problem easily by hiding a flashlight underneath the pillow. It was that serious. I had to catch them all, even late into the night!

Finally, as if to leave no room for strays, there came Pokemon, the game cards, including holographic versions that were almost sacred just to look at. Pokemon wasn’t a series then. It was a pandemic, a takeover of American life. Pokemon invaded living rooms and lunch hours and after-school activities all across the Western hemisphere, and I relished every minute of it. To this day, at my twenty-eight years, I still love Pokemon.


Why Visit Japan, Part I

Harajuku, Tokyo; Japan, Summer 2017
Harajuku, Tokyo; Japan, Summer 2017

One of the first questions I get when I tell people about visiting Japan is: why there? I’d like to answer this question with a short series for readers on how Japanese culture came into my life at an early age as a young person growing up in Los Angeles.

It started with Nintendo’s Gameboy. Not the Gameboy SP, nor even the Gameboy Color, but just the very first GAMEBOY released by Japan’s Nintendo company, along with a little cartridge disk inside of the Gameboy with a sticker at its center that glistened in the daylight as it read DONKEY KONG.

When the Metro 26 bus from Virgil Avenue to Downtown L.A. still existed, I couldn’t have been more than five years old as I sat next to mom in the terse round seats that used to make up the bus. In my hands I clutched the big, brawny Gameboy, and practically hugged it with my stomach to keep it from falling.

The 26 bus would bobble up and down Virgil boulevard and rattle its way through Temple street’s damaged pavement, but with my Gameboy in hand, there was rarely a single shock during the commute which could startle me. I sat immersed in an alternate universe with Donkey Kong, one of gaming’s favorite characters at the time, and together we skipped past troves of wooden containers and darts hurled our way, gliding through digital skies collecting banana peels for points en route to gaming victory.

It was the future, but back then it was just the early 1990s, although we the little ones knew, or our hands knew, that we were edging on the brink of a digital revolution which would change the world for decades to come. That is, until mom tugged at our hands on arriving to our stop because it was time to race off the bus.


Osaka, Hokkaido, Kansai

It’s been over a full year since JIMBO TIMES reached Japan for the first time last summer.

I’ve had ‘Nippon’s’ pueblos in mind ever since, but only more so lately due to recent news of a series of typhoons and earthquakes ratting the island-nation.

My thoughts at this moment are especially with each of the friends I was able to meet in The Land of the Rising Sun; humble, honest people who I know are concerned about what follows in the aftermath of these perturbing events.

All across the world there is a challenge to human life and survival, and each human being plays a part in rising to those challenges. Recalling the great humanitarian spirit I encountered with the people of Japan, I believe their pueblos will overcome this critical period as so many do each day: with honor, unity, and resolve, and the tremendous strength borne from the synchrony between these things. From Los Angeles I surely wish it.