We headed out early the morning of July 5 to make it to Los Angeles Airport, shit hole of the West. We had to get their very early to take care of three things: checking in, visa forms for Japan, and having our last decent Mexican food for awhile. We made it into Japan without incident, besides maybe some leftover bean farts.
Our first stop was Tokyo. We met with two members of what was to become our amazing fucking crew, Bastian and Benoit. In a weird twist, our hosts in Japan were French expats. Incroyable! We packed into the very, very tiny van, my sciatica flaring in full force after the long flight, and made our way to the Shinjuku region of Tokyo.
Our hosts dropped us off at a hotel and pointed us in the direction of the “cool” district of town. Basically, they were sending us to a metal bar. Here’s the thing about metal bars; I’m not a fan. Going to a bar to pay bar prices for beer while listening to the most spinned metal of Spotify is not my list of fave things to do. In a place like Tokyo, what you mostly find at a metal bar is other people definitely not from Tokyo. We were, however, trying to beat jet lag, stay up to midnight at the latest, everyone was into going, so it was a thing to do.
Of course, all the proprietors of the bars were gracious, no doubt about that. At the first bar we entered, Bar Psy, we ran into a fella who instantly recognized me as “Ross from Impaled.” Wow. What a rockstar moment. So, I introduced the rest of EXHUMED to him. And for some reason, he somehow inferred that Matt Harvey was Matt Pike. I have no idea why. I corrected him multiple times but he persisted and I gave up. “Wow, what’re the chances of hanging out with Ross Sewage and Matt Pike IN Tokyo?!” What’re the chances, indeed.
We managed to beat the jet lag. The next morning we were up bright and early to take the bullet train to our first gig in Sendai. I didn’t really understand the particulars of this tour, but we were basically touring with Infernal Hate, a band from the Canary Islands. They were tall big fellas and would be traveling repeatedly overnight in the van with all the band gear while we took trains and planes. I never felt so bad or privileged, but also I was NOT going to complain, having traveled very uncomfortably in tiny Japanese vans before.
Sendai is a smaller city in Japan, but the crowd turned out at The Flying Son. The show was a blast and a first good gig on our adventure in the East. I also ran into my old friend Naru, who put on the Impaled Japan tour in 2006 and had recently moved to Sendai!
One thing we definitely noticed right away was the heat in Japan. Turns out, summer is not the ideal time to head there. Not only is it hot as fuck, but it was also humid as hell everywhere we went. We left the Venom Inc. tour with intense dry heat the whole time only to land in Japan for intense wet heat. At least it was usually under 100º and we were told it was much worse in August… so thank goodness we were only there for July.
From Sendai we had to fly to Osaka. The crew and Infernal Hate… had to drive. Ugh. I felt so bad. But again, not bad enough to not enjoy my perks. BUT we were flying a very budget airline. Now, all airline have rules, but those are grey areas depending on who is working. Flying from Sendai, we had ball buster weighing everyone’s carry-on. Only I passed the muster from the get go. We sort of shuffled things around with me until things worked to even out, but Sebastian was so pissed, he took all the clothes out of his bag and put on like 6-7 layers right in front of the guy checking. His bag weighed in okay, so the guy let him through. It was the most amazing loop hole jumping I’d ever seen.
In Osaka we played a cool metal / punk place called Socore Factory. Like every place in Japan the house crew was amazing and gracious even with a slight language barrier. We also walked around Osaka a bit and found the cool part of town where all the punks spikes were the tallest and everyone but me got to enjoy the local delicacy, octopus balls. No, not testicles, just octopus fried into ball form. The marine-life-eating 3/4 of Exhumed rated it very highly.
From Osaka we had to fly again to Fukuoka, a city in the very southwest of Japan. It definitely felt more southern, as I was “gaijin” (aka dergatory slang for foreigner) more than once. The most notable thing in Fukuoka was not the show, thought opening band Hydrophobia slayed, but 1. the literal shit ton of sushi we ate that was dirt cheap and 2. the giant Gundam robot we saw. It was like, the very best of Japan I love. Over the top goofy giant robots… but in real life. Reality sucks in general… fiction intruding on real life is what I live for.
There was no more flying Japan, which suited me fine… I was so over security checks and not having all my luggage with me. So we were back on the bullet train to far away Nagoya. It was raining, however, so our train was delayed for several hours while we sat in the train station with zero updates. Apparently, inclement weather can really fuck with a train going 186 mph. Understandable. Luckily the storm passed and we made Nagoya in time not only for the awesome show at Huck Finn, but for me to get some toy shops in town.
Nagoya is sort of close to Tokyo, so the train ride the next day was easier. One thing we had missed while in Tokyo was the nearby Godzilla hotel, which the French crew derided me for missing. Well, bitches, you didn’t tell me about it! I was now on a mission.
To be honest, I much prefer going on excursions alone at my own fast pace to see shit. But I knew the rest of Exhumed would want to see this, so I cajoled them into going with me. We also met up with our friend Frank from Relapse who happened to be in Japan at the time and he joined up. It was so worth it, and even Matt was like “thanks for getting me out to do this.” Giant. Godzilla. Head. On the top of a hotel.
When we got to the hotel, it was stated that seeing the giant Godzilla head was for hotel guests only. Of course, that’s not going to stop me from seeing some dumb shit. I just walked up as if I knew where I was going and the door everyone in the lobby thought was closed just opened for me. A bunch of other people followed me out and we all got to enjoy the giant Godzilla head on the top of a hotel. WTF. And you know what? Thank GOD we went when we did, because the next day Frank walked by the same hotel and some lady was on Godzilla and was going to commit suicide by jumping off the building! Luckily, authorities, talked her down, but I don’t think we would have had such an easy time getting out there after that.
The show in Tokyo at Wildside was amazing. So many cool people and all partying like maniacs. We went out for drinks afterwards back to another metal bar, which I sort of maybe left to go check out Shinjuku Ni-chome, the queer neighborhood. It was a bit weird, definitely saw some stranger things and got yelled at for trying to enter a bar (some are apparently members only to keep out foreigners) but I’m glad I went.
But wait! We had ANOTHER show at the same club! Which is why we had practiced two mostly different sets of songs. We knew some people would go to both shows and we wanted to make sure they got their money’s worth. It was nice because we didn’t have to load up, we didn’t have to get on a train, we just had to get up. And we did, and got food, and Matt got sick. We went to some burger place nearby and it turns out the first food Matt got that wasn’t actually Japanese upset his stomach. So we skipped a second sound check, I packed his stuff up, and I took Adam and Baz with our friend Micah who lives there to an owl bar.
Okay, the place was fucking booked, but they let us see some owls before making us leave. And then we got yelled at for being foreigners again on the street. Japan is weird. Speaking of weird, everyone is surprised when I say it’s hard to be a vegetarian in Japan. But it is. Everything is either meat broth or has fish in it or bacon thrown on top. I went to a cafe and ordered pasta with asiago sauce. It had bacon on top. Not mentioned at all in the menu. No big deal, I cast it aside, just saying.
To wrap things up, we played our second show in Tokyo and it was a blast. We had a great time with everyone there. We packed up our shit, got a few hours sleep at the hotel after night out post-show, and Japan was in the bag.
Off to Australia! To be continued…