Fieldwork #2: No Future! What is happiness?

Sitting on the unstable chair where someone could fall at any moment. I have to remember always the Peligro* of balancing the faulty push seat detached from its legs. This Peligro on sitting has become a reminder to me – apparently a place marker in my research field site.

This is my third time in Nantoka Bar chronicling, observing, and engaging with the surrounding people that Pepe Hasegawa serves every twice a month. While I was busy familiarizing the peligroso chair from falling; Pepe asked me a question. It was the same question he and a few other people in the bar counter were discussing a little bit that he wanted to share with me. “What is happiness to you, Jong?” he asked politely in Japanese. At first, I didn’t understand it because I have a very limited vocabulary. A lady next to the man beside me translated it.

Not sure what to answer, I exclaimed, “That’s a very difficult question.” Everyone understood the difficulty of the question.

As they try to figure out the many possible ways to answer Pepe’s philosophically existential question, a middle-aged man who came from nowhere suddenly appeared on the bar and shouted, “No future!” Everyone turned at him surprised and laughed. Apparently, the man is a friend, his dark humor was a relief to a simple yet complicated question unrelated to his remark. Perhaps because everyone in the bar seems very pessimistic about any manufactured idea of desire resembling the future.

That night we were about six people, four of us huddling in the bar counter are between the mid-30s and 40s, while the other two next to the minuscule heater located at the table corner were younger than us.

However, the shared pessimism of the future is the bond that sticks us together that night. Just like the faulty chair, we know the Peligro of manufactured desire.

February 18, 2017
Koenji, Tokyo

Peligro* – a Spanish word for danger or peril. It originated from the Latin – periculum.


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