Tokyo Journal 2003: Day 9

April 16th, 2003

It’s Saturday morning – you know what that means, right? Yes, cartoons! We
started off with Doremi, then had Digimon Frontier and the first Season 2 Digimon Movie.

In stark contrast to yesterday, today was bright and sunny. We decided to start with Harajuku, just because it was furthest away. And because I felt it would be a nice day to walk nowhere in particular.

Harajuku is like Tokyo’s version of St. Mark’s Place; the uber-trendy area, where all the suburban teens come to pose for animal crackers and show how hip they are. We walked around leisurely for a while until we were ready to leave. There were
enormous crowds, but mostly for the Meiji shrine, which was on the other side of the train tracks. There were a few punklings here and there, but few fruits, only one Goth-Loli and no bands. We saw more kimono; some were lovely and some were definitely not.

We had a little trouble getting out of Harajuku, because one track was closed off. So
we switched at Shibuya, went back to Takadanobaba (the place of Takada’s horse) then
on the Tozai line to Nakano.

TV has got a great suspense/mystery show on right now – a sort of live action 1940’s Detective Conan, complete with adorable boy detective in short pants. I stopped to watch because it starred one of the actors from a drama series called Oyaji which I liked, and then a girl
screamed, so we were both watching. All the actors go running into the room to find the girl unconscious and a note from the bad guy. Pattie said, “Zorro left his calling card.” Now, later on in the show, it looks like the bad guy is *actually* Zorro! Beat Takeshi plays the criminal, which makes this the sixth out of seven days that he’s been on some show or other.

Anyway, at Nakano, we headed right over to the Broadway arcade, where we stopped for
sushi at a rotating sushi bar. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but Pattie got a stomach ache. We walked through all the floors, and spent not nearly enough time at all the bits that make up *the* used anime/manga store of Japan, Mandarake. Mandarake is more like a conglomeration of shops, than a shop itself. I bought a Devilman Lady pencil board and Pattie bought me a deck of Sailor Moon cards for one card…a magnificent picture of Haruka and Michiru got up regardless. It’s my wallpaper on my desktop at home. :-)

One of the stores sold used manga – the phone book sized ones, the magazines, not the
tankubon volumes. It was whacked out; some of those were 15 years old and they were
never meant to last that long.

By then we were beat, so we came back to the hotel for a rest. We’ll watch the end
of this mystery show, then take a quick walk in Shinjuku, then come back later.

We walked for about an hour in Shinjuku (which is very easy to get lost in, and an hour can get you basically around the block there.) the night was cold and clear and Shinjuku was very colorful and sparkly, like gems.

Tokyo is a very vertical city. Whereas in NYC the shops are all, or mostly, at street
level, with business offices and apartments above, Tokyo businesses climb the buildings, so the neon signs also climb. Every building has signs going up the sides, proclaiming all the restaurants and clubs on the 1st-10th floors. As a result, you’re not very likely to just wander accidentally and come across something interesting – unless you can read the signs, or have a clue where you are headed. Otherwise, it’s just overwhelming and dazzling.

For instance, if you’re looking for the Nichoume, Tokyo’s gay and lesbian district (which we weren’t) you’d really have to *know* how to find it and when you did, you’d need a map to find any specific place to go. Not all that unlike the Village (Greenwich Village, NYC’s gay and lesbian district…well, one of them, anyway,) I suppose. If you don’t know what bar you’re looking for, you could wander past perfectly average delis and gift stores forever.

While we were wandering aimlessly, we came across a really neat little shrine, called
the Hanazono
Jinja
(Garden Shrine.) It was all festive and packed with people waiting to pray! The line was almost a block long…mostly yuppie-types, which really surprised me. I mean, you just don’t get that vibe off of fashion/status-conscious 20-somethings. Since most Japanese aren’t really religious, it was amazing how busy the shrines and temples were. I guess it’s just like Xmas and Easter or Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. (Satou-san, our bus tour guide, had joked that most Japanese were Shinto in life, Buddhist in death and Christian on Christmas.) We didn’t join the line – we had prayed to a lot of gods by then and we felt pretty covered. But the bells were gorgeous and if it hadn’t been so cold, I might have wanted to ring them.

We were flagging by then, so we opted for dinner in – again.

TV tonight is boring. We have a choice of home movies of Princess Aiko, or some
comedian’s show, which is only moderately funny – even the live audience is unimpressed. (At the Fuji TV building, everyone taught Pattie to make this noise and gesture, that this comedian always does. We watched for over an hour, but he never did it. We flipped.)

Here’s something you don’t see every day – a bunch o’guys in Edo Period dress
playing what can only be called hacky-sack.

Next time: Trip to the Mall

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