Author/Content editor of Tokyo
Time in Japan:
What do you do
I' written presentations to the Soviet Academy of Sciences and gross letters of apology
to all sorts of others. I guess you could call me a freelance editorial cow-puncher.
There's also Tokyo Q, an online magazine, which gets about 90,000 visits per month. People
are starting to ask us all sorts of questions, assuming we know everything about what's
going on: about bands, and where do I buy loose socks?
We try to do the best we can.
Where are you from?
I'm originally from New York. We lived in Brooklyn, and I worked in New York, so the
kids—two of them—grew up half in New York and half in Tokyo.
What brought you to Japan?
I was working for a company in Amsterdam that wanted a Tokyo office, and they said
"go to Japan". They'd been doing work with Japan for a hundred years, sending
people here on a boat; they'd spend three months coming and three months going back. They
needed somebody here. How could I say no? I remember going to look for a Japanese language
book in Amsterdam and the only one they had was the toyo kanji. I looked through that and
thought, Oh my God! But it turned out to be wonderful.
Are you planning to stay?
I never know how to answer that. This is my home. I've lived here longer than I've lived
in New York. I certainly have no reason to go back. Traveling is lovely, but this is where
I live. This is my home. No question.
What do you like about Japan most?
The food, the baths and the pace of conversation. It's contemplative, easy, gentle. I like
the way people treat each other, for the most part.
What do you dislike about Japan most?
The potential of this country is being whittled away. There's no political structure, no
political vision. The universities are missing a terrific opportunity. They're very far
from world class, and this is a world-class country. Tokyo has the potential to be the New
Vision of a city. We've got the money, the architects and the dreaming, but for the most
part there's really no city planning, which is charming up to a point. The model for the
new Tokyo seems to be like New York, which is not a very good model. It's inhuman, and one
of the things that's so charming about this city is its humanity in the streets,
particularly in the old parts of town.
If you could take one thing back from Japan to your native country, what would it be?
I suppose the concept of the bath. Unbeatable! It's extraordinary that it doesn't exist
anywhere else outside of maybe, Hungary. What's wonderful is that the government
recognizes that it's an important part of life and subsidizes it.
Do you have a favorite place to eat and drink in Tokyo?
There are so many wonderful places. The problem with reviewing restaurants as a hobby is
that you can't go back to your favorite ones; you have to keep going. I'm very happy to
have friends from abroad so we can take them to places we know. I carry a list of about 50
places. All of them are wonderful, for one reason or another.
Where would you like to be when the big one hits?
At home. I hope everybody's at home. I remember the Asahi Shimbun was very worried a
couple of years ago that modern civilization would have a lot of trouble because women are
wearing high heels, and it will be very difficult to walk through all the rubble!
Tell us about your latest book, Little Adventures in Tokyo.
The whole point is to open up the city to people who don't speak Japanese and are baffled
because the city has no street signs. These things shouldn't stop you. There are very
precise instructions on where to go, and what to say when you get there. I think it more
or less works. I'm confident that if you take the book you'll come away with a feeling
of... well, something about Tokyo that you wouldn't find if you were wandering around some
more nondescript part of the city.