Fuck another night on the town, traipsing through the sex-filled streets of Shibuya in the beautiful snow, filming world famous Russian documentary film-maker Victor Kosakovskiy (the second film maker to arrive). We are four in total, we all need to get our ideas in to NHK Japan by the beginning of March.
Me and Victor were drunk, filming all the gorgeous women in the red light district… in and out of bars, sake and strong japanese spirit followed by gin and tonics and and and…
I haven’t been back to my little school, I wanted to find something new, I’m still discovering Japan. I want to really find someone I can talk to, someone I can have a dialogue with… pose questions about this crazy society… answer the anxieties that i’ve been building up in my mind over these last 4 weeks. Find someone who is smart and not so subservient like all the Japanese seem to be…
I began filming the production office who are helping make these films in Tokyo. The kind hearted producer Mr. Matsui, “Hello Mr. Sean… you are very welcome…” he took the camera off me and filmed me, introducing me to all his staff. Please meet Miss Mayumi (23 year old assistant) and Mr. Jimbo (23 year old male assistant).
I love the office, it is the other side of Japan for me. Not high tech or clinically clean – it is full of old clunky VHS editing suites and has a wonderful dirty floor. Papers all over, staff smoking at their desk… So this is modern japan? This where Japan the 1st world nation meets Japan the 3rd world mentality…
I cannot hide my bewilderment – Jimbo now has the camera and I feel it right on me. He comes closer capturing a lonely pensive moment where I feel sad for the state of this office. “Mr. Sean” he says. “You look so sad, like you are going to cry… why?” I am speechless for a moment and make some excuse…
In many ways it is my most memorable moment here yet, at that time I’m asking myself, why am I here? What am I doing? And in a way I’m feeling sorry for these people trapped in this place. In this office and in Japan.
Communism meets capitalism here – for a moment I’m back in Saddam’s Iraq
Later Mr. Matsui is joking around, pulling sleeping bags down from cupboards and placing them on the office floor. He gets me to climb in to illustrate how his staff sleep on the office floor when they’re working late. Jimbo gets four chairs on wheels, pulls them together and shows me his makeshift bed also.
Mayumi has been helping me with my research, I’ve seen her getting more and more tired. I was getting worried and wanted to say something to Mr. Matsui, but it may be interpreted as her failing to provide her duties properly so I didn’t say anything. Mayumi travels 2 hours to work each way each day, her last train leaves Tokyo at 11.30 and she is always back in the office by 10 each morning.
I notice Jimbo nodding off at his computer, it is 6.30 in the evening – probably another 5 hours to go before home time. I grab the camera and film him. It is a funny but shocking moment. Really interesting to see how people can sleep on their feet, in their hands or even just sitting facing the computer. Looking at Jimbo from behind you could never tell he was sleeping. It is a crafted skill he has acquired at the tender age of 23. In a busy place like this everyone turns a blind eye to the grabbing of 40 winks.
But being around such a committed workforce makes me feel guilty. I swan in and out of the office when I like. Casually getting out of bed at 2 in the afternoon after a heavy night on the town. This atmosphere makes me think that maybe I need to change… that maybe it is my fault that I am not getting any closer to the Japanese. I decide to turn a new leaf. At least try. My latest concept in keeping myself amused here is; ‘Becoming Japanese’.
A new working title. Filming Mr. Matsui – the head producer here, I explain that I need him to schedule me like the Japanese are scheduled, to order my day, to get me out of bed and out of the pub. This is going to be a clash of cultures where east meets west but doesn’t quite understand each other. The kind of thing that amuses my childlike mind. Mr. Matsui resists at first saying that he envies my ‘relaxed… casual approach to life… this not possible in japan….’
I insist that he attempt to organise me, I’ve been getting worried about doing nothing here and finding so many distractions/attractions elsewhere in the sleezy bars. Finally Mr. Matsui sits me down with his chart, ‘Mr. Sean’s Schedule’.
“OK Mr. Sean, what time did you wake up today?” “10am” I tell him from the behind the camera. He writes this down on his chart. “Then what did you do?” “I went for a coffee” he looks up at me. “Then what did you do?” “I went back to bed.”
I cannot hold back my laughter the camera wobbles as I giggle. It had been a particularly long night and I’d had difficulty getting the day started. Mr. Matsui looked bemused.
“Ok so what did you wake up number 2?” “12 o clock” I tell him. He writes this down. “Then what did you do?” “I went for a pizza.” “You went for a pizza?” He writes it down. “Then what did you do?” “I went back to bed.” “What!” Mr. Matsui leaps back shaking his head in disbelief. “Oh my god.. So what time did you wake up number 3?” “About half an hour ago before I came to your office.” He looks at his watch… it is 4pm. “Ok Mr. Sean we are going to have to get you organized.”
The irony is that there are still enough hours left before midnight, when this office will close, to squeeze in a normal day’s work, yet this office has been open since morning. I look over at jimbo nodding off. Later Mayumi reveals that she doesn’t like to nap in public and nips to the toilet when she cannot keep her eyes open.