Monday, July 18, 2005

Monday, July 18, 2005

Moshi moshi ... from Tokyo

Posted by Hippo Bean at 9:58 PM
Moshi moshi, Alex-san ite kudasai? It was followed by a flurry of colloquial Japanese of which I didnt understand a single word. Eh, sumimasen, eh, wakarimasen, choto mate kudasai - go get that girl from JTB! That was our intro to Japan. Alex wasnt there. We would have to call again.

I grew up fantasizing about Kenji Sawada, Momoe Yamaguchi and countless other Japanese singers and actors. I loved their sentimental TV shows, their fashion, their music and their culture. I fell so in love with their language I even took a whole semester of Japanese at CSM. And I dreamed of being there someday. Now that I'm finally here, the magic seemed to have evaporated. I imagined being here and instantly some favorite Japanese song would spring up in my head. No music was in my mind when the plane landed.

When our friendly limousine bus from Narita stopped at the air terminal, the porters took out some of the passengers luggage and bowed to the bus while it sped away. Welcome to polite Japan!

In the morning we wanted to have coffee to go but couldnt find a single place that offered coffee to go, not even at a 7-Eleven. We finally got it at McDonalds. Sometimes, thanks God for fast food joints! The young girl at the counter gave me my receipt on both hands and with a bow. I wondered how much she made an hour working at McDonalds.

Our first stop was the Tokyo Tower, modeled after the Eiffel Tower but painted Asian vermilion. One can see the whole capital city in 360 degrees, even Fuji on a clear day. But not today. The day was misty, humid and hot. Two glass windows on the floor revealed the street below. I put my foot on one and took a picture.

Tokyo Tower


Next, was a brief glimpse of the Imperial Palace.

Imperial Palace


Then on to the Asakusa Kannon Temple


Kannonji


(did you know that Cannon was named after the Kannon god in Asakusa?) filled with tourists and buddhists praying, hands joined palm to palm, heads bowed, burning incense in a dangerously fire hazardous day, and shaking the bowl of fortune sticks, hoping for a good fortune that day. The temple's ceiling had very colorful Asian paintings. Next, a stop at the Tasaki Pearl where they showed us how to make cultured pearls. I felt sorry for the mollusks. You had to kill one to extract the membrane to put it into another shell. Good thing I never had any cultured pearls!

In the afternoon we ventured out to Shinkuju to find the advertised cybercafe. Instead we discovered affordable udons. Rather upscale this district was, with lots of financial high-rise buildings, not likely a place for a cybercafe. M wanted to see the Meiji temple since it looked close enough on the map. When we got out of the subway station, a multitude of young people were about. Hair spiked and dyed blond and red and purple, bodies strapped in knapsacks, denim jeans and Nike sneakers, our first sight of young Japanese. As it turned out, this area was famous for young people. After a brief visit to the Meiji temple (a long walk to the main shrine, nothing in particular to see, only empty sake barrels), we finally ran into a cheap and slow internet place in Roppongi. We got an email from Alex and finally made econtact. While waiting for M to finishing typing her emai, fighting and cursing the Japanese keyboard, I picked up a pamphlet and discovered Manbo, high speed internet, your own private booth and free drinks, just a few blocks away! Too late now. We were hungry and it's getting late. Perhaps when we return to Tokyo on our last day. After a ramen and gyoza dinner, we subway'd back to Chiyoda and got lost and couldnt find our hotel.

I think a city without street names is very romantic but hardly practical. Well, afterall nothing romantic is practical. There would be many more times when we got lost in Japan! I didnt like Tokyo. It got no character and no architecture.

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