Thursday, April 22, 2010

Asakusa and Shinjuku

What a beautiful morning. The type of morning you could fall in love with the first person who smiles at you. God, I love days like this!

The sky way blue, the sun was shining, and we were off to Asakusa. Never mind that people were late to meeting, that just gave me time to head to the 100 yen shop and buy some tasty treats.

On and off the train, we found ourselves walking the shopping street towards the temple. On each side were stalls offering all sorts of souvenir goods. Last time I was in Tokyo I thought of this area as the only tourist attraction in the city. And I still believe that. Local, domestic, and international tourists all line the streets here hopping from shop to shop on their way to see the temple.

The temple itself, I'm sure, offers a great sight to those who understand the practices. As for myself, I can take enjoyment from watching people rub the healing smoke on their bodies, before paying their coins and entering the building. The great number of statues and flowers here also do well to capture my interest.

After some sight seeing, I finally just picked a spot to sit down, read some of my book (now covered in stamps from various stations) and wait for the others to finish up. Twenty minutes to do nothing but sit in the sun and read. And boy did I enjoy it. This is what my Japan trip was supposed to be. This was the time I was supposed to get bored, and do nothing. That was not happening – but at last I had some time.

And well spent it was, until a few Japanese guys came up to me and wanted to get pictures with me. Who knows what has become of them. It's possible I look strange to them, and it's also possible they mistook me for the Canadian who looks like me that is on TV here, talking about the country. Who can say?

After people had finished their temple walks, and fortune reading, we took off to walk over to Ueno park. I seem to recall having been there not long ago, but now in the sun it would be – you know – easier to find the washroom and not become horribly lost. Also, during the day it was likely that there would not be giant talking beer bottles, but that's just supposition on my part.

Ueno Park – at the entrance there was a collection of over one hundred homeless people. They gathered by people with crates of food. That food would be theirs, all they had to do was sit through a sermon about how the Christian God is their savior. I don't know about you, but if the Christian God makes you wait until you hear how wonderful he is before he hooks you up with some food, then he sounds like a real jag-off, yeah?

I had no patience to watch this farce. Not when it was only making me angry – just give the the food, and if they wanna stay, then tell them about your all-bloody-mighty. Otherwise you're just cruel. Plus, there were lots of Cherry Blossoms to go see.

These flowers are turning out to be like ice in Antarctica. Sure, there are lots, and I'd already taken hundreds of photos – but not of this specific area, and not in this light, and not with this background. It was different. I just had to take a dozen more shots. And a dozen more shots I took.

When people went to explore the park a little more, I also decided to just hang back and read. I was quite enjoying these moments of free time. What a beautiful thing it was. My only break from reading came when I was told I just simply had to walk up to a shrine, pour oil on a statue, and then drink some Sakura tea. Sure – why not?

From the park we headed to Shinjuku. Our first stop was to go to the governmental building and take the fifty five second elevator to the forty fifth floor, offering views of the surrounding city that stretches until it merges with the clouds.

I'd seen this all before, but I hadn't collected the stamp. That alone made it worth the time. And the thirty minute line. I do not remember there being a line last time I was here. Still – once at the top, all was forgiven. And it was free, so why not?

Stew discovered a little machine I would have overlooked. You could have your picture taken, and it would be printed on a piece of rounded plastic. This picture of your face could then be put into a plastic toy body. For 500 yen you could make plastic you! What better thing could I be offered?! I love myself so!

After making myself, I also made a mini-Katherine too, as I have no physical pictures of her anymore. And apparently I find myself having an easier time using the toy creation device than just going to a digital printing centre making some new photos.


Well anyway, with mini Mike and Kath on key chains, I was ready to descend back to the ground level and head out to Shinjuku on the other side of the station. The real Shinjuku – the real Japan, in my mind.

Now, it's not that I quite like Shinjuku – it offers fewer things that I care about, but at night? That's what you think of when you think Tokyo. It was here that Bill Murray first entered Japan in Lost in Translation. Here are the neon lights, and the streets packed with people. Here is the night life all coming together and making the ordinary extrodinary.

And off runs a man being chased through the streets. Shinjuku nightlife!

A terrible amount of pictures may have been taken as I tried to capture every light, and every subtle illumination. I failed, I always fail at this – it's just so much. It's something that, once again, needs to be seen to be appreciated. The colours, and feeling. I was home – even though I didn't quite want to be here.

Still, it did offer me some delicious noodles, and a look at what had changed. Where, before, the streets were packed with hostess clubs (places where you pay girls to drink with you, and talk with you – it's like the emotional side of prostitution.) they were now full of host clubs. Host clubs are the same, except gender reversed. The number of women willing to pay guys to drink with them is ever growing, and apparently quite popular now. The hosts roamed the streets looking for people to come into the bar with them.

They're easy to spot – they all have hair just like Cloud Strife.

With those sights experienced it was back to our rooms. The night was stretching on, and we had to be up early the next day to activate our rail passes, and get on out of this crazy city!

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