Wish You Were Here


By Kit Conway

Photographed by Kit Conway, Giullian Gioiello, & Kristina Reyes


I've spent this winter out of the US for the first time in my life, exploring Taiwan and Japan. For the first leg of the trip (mostly in Taipei) I was with my friends Giullian and Kristina, but after a week in Japan blew our minds they went back home and I've been living and gigging here in Tokyo. At the start of the trip we bought a bunch of disposable cameras and caught different moments as we wandered around these foreign places. This is a compilation of the best of those moments, as well as excerpts from my journal during that first month of the trip. Wish you were here.



The young people here are like American youth in 1962; you get this sense of a brimming transition from tradition to rebellion. The underground scene is much less self-aware than in New York, rock bars have "FUCK" scribbled on the wall with absolute sincerity. Went to an avant-garde electronic show with our friend Chien-Fu and met his friend Morphine there. The openers were great but the headliner was making some extremely abrasive noise on an iPad. We smoked cigarettes and drank Taiwan Beer in the street outside.




Sunday night I took a night bus from Taipei to meet Giullian and Kristina in Kaohsiung, Taiwan's southern port city. It was a 4 hour trip down the length of the island. At some point halfway through the country I realized I had never been this far from anyone I'd known before, and was traveling to a city I'd never heard of where nobody spoke my language. And by some miracle that didn't scare me right then, all I felt was this great satisfaction of really not knowing where the hell I was more than ever, somehow still headed where I needed to be.




Taipei is a modern, urban sprawl built on the foundations of a small village. It's safe and busy and well run but there are exotic meats and foul smelling tofu vendors and wild dogs all through the streets. Meanwhile Tokyo is an alternate universe Manhattan in 20 years, where the 7-11 bathrooms have heated seats and bidets. As soon as we caught the train from Narita airport I knew I needed to be there. I changed plans soon after to live in Japan for the remainder of the winter.





After a few hours of drinking and jamming on Velvet Underground tunes I was ready for bed. "Wait," said Yuki, "Before we go to bed we have to beat Donkey Kong 2 on Super Nintendo. It's tradition." And with a big smile he said, "We nerd, but we pimp."


Burning CDs for the show tonight at Takuroh Toyama's photo exhibition. Been listening almost exclusively to Neil Young, Patsy Cline, and the Everly Brothers, true-blue American talent I've only really appreciated now that I'm in such a foreign place. I get lonely here sometimes. It's not that I need to be home, I just need to be around a native English speaker for a minute. The ESL conversations I've been having are wonderful but I miss speaking at my usually frantic, scattered pace.



Headed back to Shu's place from Toritsu-Daigaku on the train right now. It's late. The guys told me if I miss my last connection I may need to walk the last 30 minutes of the trip. Shu and Yuki offered to join me back so I don't get lost. I told them don't worry about it, I know the way. I don't. Plus my phone only gets wifi in coffeeshops, so I'm on my own intuition. But I'm not worried. Japan is safe. It's cold but I have a warm coat with me. I'll be okay.


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