Tokyo Journal 2003: Day 10

April 22nd, 2003

We interrupt this broadcast for some Important Yuri Anime News!

ADV has announced licensing of Azumanga Daioh – a snortingly funny look at high school with an honest-to-goodness lesbian character, who is more realiztic in her unfulfilled crush thatn anyone else I’ve ever seen in anime. As soon as you can, run out and buy this – it’s whacked out and hysterical.

And now back to our usual programming

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Today we had a first – despite the stereotypes and our expectations, we *never* saw anyone on the train reading manga. Everyone was reading the paper, magazines or novels. Today we saw one old guy and one little girl actually reading manga on the train. Woo-hoo.

Also, while I’m blowing stereotypes, I’d like to say that there were plenty of young couples hanging all over each other, holding hands, kissing…you know, the usual PDA (PublicDisplays of Affection) I’ve been told, right up to recently, that there aren’t PDAs between couples in Japan. Well, maybe that *was* true (and it’s obviously still true in anime, where the mere holding of hands has been written in as a *major* plot complication…don’t even get me started about the apparent sexual dysfunction of Japanese men from years of exposure to anime and manga.) Anyway, we saw young folks all snuggly together everywhere we went, except Comiket. Read into that last sentence however you’d like.

People do stare at us, but rarely hostilely. Only the guy in the sukiyaki place, really. Kids are the funniest, though – they are puzzled by us and ultimately, the most likely to smile or wave back. Mostly they just hide from us, while the parents stare. Since I and my friends (who all have “character”) are often stared at here at home, I don’t care much about that.

So the discovery for today was that the question, “Where *are* all the foreigners” actually has an answer! They really are in Roppongi, the section of Tokyo traditionally  reserved for foreigners. I kind of assumed that that was another cliche, but to our surprise, it totally wasn’t. But I get ahead of myself.

Pattie wanted to see Venus Fort, which was out by the Tokyo Big Site, because it’s meant to look like a 17th century Italian village. So we took the Yurikamome line, the way we did the first day going to Comiket. This time I wasn’t so dizzy and sick and was able to enjoy the ride over the Rainbow Bridge.

We essentially headed towards the Babylon project – all sorts of places “reclaimed” from Tokyo Bay. On the first day I had pointed out a cone-shaped pylon in the water of the bay – I *think* its the remnant of the obstructions built by Tokugawa Ieyasu to keep the Black Ships of the Jesuits out.

Venus Fort was a 17th century Italian village as seen through the eyes of a Short Hills mall designer. Pleasant and nicely put together – lots of pretty lights and about as Italian as I am. Which is to say…not. We had a crepe for a snack at Cafe Very Very (they have these filled snack crepes everywhere yound women are likely to be, and they smell *so* good and we totally caved.) We bought some stationery and stickers which were beautiful. The mall had a bagel place, go figure. The sky was painted to look like day turning into evening, then night. They had a laser show in the night portion, which wasn awful, but not awful enough to be funny. The best part of Venus Fort was that it was definitely designed for women. The shops, yadda yadda, but it was the *bathrooms* that really stood out. Every corner of every courtyard had signs to the nearest bathroom and all of them were spotless (and Western style, we noted.) According to the guide book (Yes, Venus Fort was in the guidebook) it has the world’s largest women’s bathroom, with 86 stalls, but we never saw that one. We didn’t consider ourselves deprived.

After we wandered a bit more, pondering the literally priceless plastic fish at Comme ‘Ca (“Le est Comme ca ism” reads the signs) we decided to try for lunch at Moti, an Indian restaurant I wrote into an Utena story and wanted to try. We took the train to Shimboshi, then the Hibiya line to Roppongi…where we answered that age old question…where are all the foreigners? Well, they are in Roppongi..and we should feel pity for them. Roppongi was repulsive. It’s all cheesy clubs, bars and chain restaurants. We “found” the Hard Rock Cafe’…bleah. There are also Thai, Indian and Malaysian restaurants, which we had seen none of anywhere else. oddly, Italian and Chinese restaurants abound all over Tokyo – I guess they aren’t really “foreign” any more there than they are here. Some things are universal….

When we switched to the Hibiya line, we ran into an immediate three foreigners. One blonde woman got off with us at Roppongi, but sprinted away without a word. We saw a few other scattered folks biking the streets, and walking and generally just being foreign abroad. It was creepy, because they all looked like they felt foreign and it was uncomfortable.

We found Moti easily enough with the map from their website and the food was perfectly nice – hot, but tasty. So I, at last, ate at the restaurant in my story. Afterwards, we walked a little, but there was trash everywhere – it’s obvious that the city neglects the streets of Roppongi. We debated whether this was on purpose because its only foreigners, or whether us foreigners are just dirtier.But there we so many chains that by the time we saw Subways, we were skeeving and we turned back. (Not, however, before I bought a Batz Maru washcloth and pencil at a 100-yen store.!)

We decided to go back to K-Books one last time since the first time we were there we were beat and this was our last shopping day. (If I had had one more day, I’d have gone back to Mandarake and looked at the used manga again, ’cause, y know, we didn’t freaking *have* enough, for pity’s sake…) Pattie went upstairs to the doujinshi and I headed downstairs to the used manga section. In mere moments, I had found a couple of good volumes, then joy of joys found the finale to Hen and the first two Devilman Lady issues. I found a few other promising things too, and helped stimulate Japan’s economy, so that was pretty good.

Since the holiday is now over (it’s Monday) the streets have been packed. I love that, walking out of the hotel onto busy people-filled streets. We managed to finally see kids in school uniforms and I can honestly say that I’m amazed. The skirts really are, sometimes, that short. Go figure. So, anyway, the streets were packed and there were hawkers standing around handing out tissue packs all along the main area of Ikebukuro. I made Pattie take one, and I did too. I really like Ikebukuro…I could definitely live there.

We got our weekly One Piece fix tonight. It was a new episode and I didn’t know where they were in the story (its not the same as the manga right now,) but I got to hear Nico Robin, which was cool.

Next time: Worshipping at the feet of Fuji-san

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