Friday, December 21, 2007

sisters, blisters

a combined response to Sonia Shah's 'Tight Jeans and Chania Chorris' and Dennis Coopers's 'Jun Togawa's Incredible Basics'

Navigating one's cultural landscape in the midst of sexual metamorphosis, and after the fact, is always a challenge, but here I examine interactions with specific landscapes coupled with having a sister. Now, I'll briefly sum up the pieces I'm responding to. Sonia's essay recounts her experience, in the context of her Indian-American family in the early 90s USA, as a budding-post-budding college girl feminist being brought in from the sidelines to help reel in her blossoming foxy little sister before she gets sent off to India. The little sister gets sent off to India anyway and returns in a backless chania chorris, and in the end Sonia learns that the ideas she's adopted about sexuality and feminism need some adapting to her specific reality in light of her little sister's success in navigating her world and expressing her sexuality. Dennis Cooper's piece on Jun Togawa is a blog posting with video clips, discographies, critical commentary, photos, extracts from interviews and more to give his readers an overview of this wonderful artist whom most outside of Japan aren't familiar with. We learn about Jun's amazing music, her concept of fiction within her music, what she thinks of being an actress, her relation to metamorphosis, after Kafka perhaps, in her lyrics – such as a woman turning into a cicada chrysalis out of desperate love. We also learn that Jun's younger sister, who had also grown up to be an actress and a singer following in her sister's footsteps, committed suicide in 2002, hanging herself in her bedroom. Jun, via interview extracts, explains her and her sister's childhood to us as one that was abnormally harsh, or her in words, “extremely strict.” For her and her sister it was not only a problem of becoming an adolescent, but even going out to play with friends was a no-no.

I don't know what happened to Sonia and her sister, but from what I gather they both turned out fine, with Sonia still a bit damaged from her formative sexual expression experiences. Sonia is still a writer, and lecturer, and her sister most likely leads a normal private life. Sonia was an intellectual, of sorts, but her landscapes influenced this. Personally I think it was Sonia herself that lead to her little sister being able to navigate the metamorphosis better, which is ironic because Sonia couldn't do the same for herself since she was experiencing adolescence alone at that very time. On the other hand, her experiences allowed her to see the world in a different way, and gain insight, becoming a more sensitive, if confused, soul. Which if followed through on, has much promise for the writer.

In Jun Togawa's song “Suki Suki Daisuki” she sings a line that goes something like, “If you don't say you love me, I'll kill you.” The song is from the early 80s and has a poppy-compressed sound in the chorus contrasted with echoey operatics in the verses and bridge, and is perhaps a good example of Jun's fantasy world contrasted with Sonia's real navigations, aligned via Jun's real life imagined from Sonia's. Well that's a bit mazey, but nonetheless I think it's quirky feeling which comes off with real emotion is genius, though I'm not sure Jun would ever actually say what she says in the song to someone, and for all I know she might only see it as a simplistic line from a character. Either way, there's a palpable quality to it that I sort of relate to. As an idol Jun would sometimes dress in military garb on stage, holding the microphone like a curse, like the most nihilistic militarist with a heart that I've ever seen.

Well, space is running out but I wanted to contrast Jun's background (miserable childhood) with Sonia's, and Jun's sisters death contrasted with Sonia's lil' sis – actress and singer vs collegiate and teenager; the idols lives as a study in contrast of reality and fantasy, with the subtext leading insight to their feminine world. I wanted to contrast the adolescent experience in 60s Japan with 80/90s USA, including schools, contrasting American schools with Japanese. I wanted to explore Sonia's mixed feelings on sexual objectification of the self via Jun and Kyoko's careers as idols in the context of their fucked childhoods. Oh yeah, I also wanted to touch on Jun's love of the Meguro Parasitological Museum, I hear it's popular for dates.

In my response to Shah's essay I stated that navigating ones cultural landscape is a difficult thing to do. Here, Sonia's little sister seemed to do it in the most socially acceptable way whereas Jun's didn't (i.e. killing herself). Though, this is all conjecture. However, I can speak from experience when I say that navigating one's social landscape after an abusive childhood is perhaps the most difficult thing an individual can do. My heart goes out to Jun and her sister (R.I.P.), Sonia too.


David Saä Viccenzo said...

you are great!!!!

Gareth said...

Jun did try slitting her throat in 1995 and ended up in hospital, but apparently the wound didn't reach the carotid arterie or something so she was ok. It says on the Japanese wikipedia, check with babelfish.

you-x said...

Thank you David, you are great too. Thanks for checking out my blog, you are always a special voice and light.

Gareth, I did not know that. Thanks for the info, I will go check it out. Poor Jun. Thanks for reading the essay and whatever, and again for your informative comment. I really want to write something more on Jun and now I think I'm not so crazy to do so. I take it you're a fan of Jun's? Have you ever seen her live or anything like that? Any cool rumors, stories, interviews, or pure praise you'd like to share? I think she's awesome.

David said...

A fantastic post. Thank you so much for sharing.

you-x said...

David, you are most welcome. Thank you for stopping by, reading the post and for your comment, that all means a lot to me. I'm happy to know you liked the Togawa/Shah thing.

Gareth said...

Only other rumour I've heard, and this is off someone I know, is that she used to manage the Japanese Oi band Cobra during their early days.

Looks like she's a guest presenter at the end of this video. Someone on youtube says they're talking about the difference in oi and punk clothing styles? Not sure whether this has got anything to do with that managing rumour.

Also I remember reading that she was a fan of Laibach on this page:

But beyond that I'm spent. Info on Japanese artists is hard to come by in English, especially ones from the 80s or 70s. And I don't know any Jap.

ring(o)master said...