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 Tokyo 2 [私達はカンザスに関してもうある]:  Arcitexture, Toilets, Snow Men [雪の人の土地], "Crab Hosts," Tsukiji Fish Market & the Bullet Train to Kyoto


after our first day in Tokyo, we slept with spectacular views outside our window ... woke up, donned robes & made coffee ... i went for a run around the Imperial Palace grounds, apparently THE place to run in Tokyo ... lots of runners, people going to work, people on bikes, etc... everyone is relatively relaxed here & everything is smooth-running & orderly for the most part ... things aren't nearly as crowded or hectic as it's reputation makes it out to be ... NYC feels far more rat-racey to me .... here everything is zen ... there's little resistance in the circuits ... some streets are crowded & crazy but only because people seek that out ... then again we haven't ridden the notorious Yamanote at rush hour ...

we got breakfast on the top floor of our hotel [the Grand Prince], felt like being on top of the world:

breakfast over Tokyo

then j had some work to do, people to meet [Masa at Table for Two] so i went exploring for a few hours on my own... walked through the Akasaka area to Roppongi ... the weather here is perfect, at least this time of year.

Akasaka sky

Akasaka wires

i stopped in a few bookstores in my wanderings to see if I could find the Japanese translation of Norman Lock's Land of the Snow Men ... not a lot of people here speak English, or if they do they are quite shy about it ... it's a challenge sometimes to communicate, but you are usually able to get by somehow ... in one case the person actually had a sheet of FAQS in both English & Japanese & she pointed to the sentence that said the book wasn't in stock & they'd have to order it for me ... the Japanese are definitely into books, they are beautifully made ... & there's whole sections just on typography & design...

japanese design books

i wandered off down some back alley & came across some sort of shrine/temple complex [Myozo-ji] ... i was literally the only one there ... there were these gardens & shrines & temples with a lot of these half cat/half dog sort of statues ... everything was in Japanese so i had the slightest idea what anything said but it was just all so cool to look at ...

myozo-ji rafter


flâneured through Roppongi, which is supposed to be some hip arts area, but i wasn't so impressed ... maybe i wasn't looking in the right places or going down the right streets, but it seems quite commercial & lots of gringos [or gaijin here], Hardrock cafe, Outback steakhouse, that kind of shit ... Roppongi Hills is like this ubber modern, office complex & malls with terraced spaces & no cars, all walking ... lots of museums & stuff integrated into these amazing arcing architectural spaces ...

Roppongi Hills



Roppongi Hills exchange

went back to the room then tried to meet up with j ... my blackberry's not working here so it's a challenge to sync up when separated ... Masa called me & was like go to such & such a subway stop & go to the C-10 exit, etc. where he then instructed j to meet me [what did we do before cell phones?] ... somehow ran into her in a sea of people, not even where we were supposed to meet ... we went to the Imperial Palace where i ran around that morning, but there's not much to see that's in view ... the emperor only comes out like twice a year & even then it's behind bulletproof glass ... you can kind of look across a moat at some bridges & some buildings ... tourists flock to look at those bridges though ...

swan & imperial moat

Imperial Palace Swan

then we took the subway to Shinjuku, which is like the hectic Times Square area of Tokyo, where a lot of Lost in Translation was shot ... we wandered around, into some area where EVERY guy was wearing pointy boots, tight black trousers & had poofy dyed hair, like James Iha meets Axl Rose ... it was quite the phenomena, it was like there were hundred of guys trying out for a part in a movie ... either that or they were gay or male prostitutes [we inquired later & evidently they are called "Crab Hosts" & man the doors of night clubs trying to lure women in ... yes, Crab Hosts, if that isn't the name of a band yet it should be] ... trends here seem pandemic to certain parts of town ... & the pachinko parlors are a phenomena as well, the collective din is deafening, a drug, it's a huge business here ... we ended up in some area that seemed to be the red light district... lots of strip club/dancer kind of places ... we couldn't read the signs, but one club looked like it exclusively featured stripper nurses, i.e. all the girls were half-dressed in nurse uniforms, stethoscopes in cleavage ... very strange ... then we got back on the train back to our hood & found a yakitori/Kaiseki/Tapas/sushi kind of place [these fusion tapas kind of places are popular here now] called An An ... had all sorts of delectables like soy milk skin & shrimp, tofu, toro sashimi, gingko nuts, etc. oh, somewhere in Shinjuku [Book 1st or Bunkamura-dori] we found a bookstore that had one last copy of Land of the Snow Men in Japanese, quite an object to behold!

Land of the Snow Men

they even used my images ... here's some scans from the book object ...

Land of the Snow Men



how cool is that? ... everything is cool here ... even the toilets are super cool ... they are outfitted with all sorts of bells & whistles ... they are heated, they automatically half-flush when you sit on it [to avoid undue embarrassment] & then when you are done you have the option of a bidet or spray [though it might take a discriminating derrière to discern the difference] ...

Toikyo Tolet

i test-drove it [though i wasn't brave enough for the "nozzle cleaning"] & it was quite exhilarating ... the kind of thing you have to commit to, because if you jump up out of the way, it would probably squirt water ten feet into the air ... just now j tried the bidet ... right when she sat on it, on of her co-workers called & i had to explain to the guy that j was having "technical difficulties" & couldn't come to the phone ... it was pretty funny ... anyway, the toilets are great ... the only place i've seen them in NYC are at Hasaki ... for anyone that's curious ... the bathrooms are fully accessorized too & the mirrors even automatically defog when you get out of shower ... the Japanese think of everything ...


woke up really early, got the subway to the Tsukiji Fish Market, by far the largest fish market in the world, if not commercial market of any sort ... it's immense, a heaven on earth for fish lovers ... we wandered around amidst the bustle, the forklifts & vendors & suppliers, you can get anything that lives in the ocean in this market ... we weren't early enough for the auction, but for example a large bluefin tuna will fetch around $10,000 dollars ... what's really surprising is how clean & fresh everything is ... not once did we remotely get a whiff of fish & here we were surrounded by it all ...



cutting frozen tuna with a bandsaw



calamari & ink on ice

Calamari in ink



octopussy Tsukiji


calamari book cover? [undoctored]

Tsukiji Calamari


Tsukiji waterfront

Tokyo Harbor Tsukiji

we worked up an appetite eye-grazing on all this fish, so went & got some sushi right there in the market [yes, for an early breakfast!] ... talk about fresh, you could almost taste the blood still pumping in the veins, all served chirashi style heaped into a bowl of rice ...


Tsukiji sushi

oh & raw shrimp is amazing, for whatever reason you can never find it in the states ... the only other place i've had raw shrimp is Nairobi [scary stupid, i know, but worth the risk] & the yellow goo globs are uni [sea urchin] ... the closest you can get to eating the bottom of the ocean itself ...

then, with a bellies full of toro, we ended up back in Roppongi since j hadn't seen it, flâneured around, gazing at the architecture, people-watching, running across shrines, etc. ...

Roppongi arch






Roppongi temple

got the subway back downtown & went to Tokyo station to get our train tickets to Kyoto, then wandered over to Ginza, came across this grand Chinese-looking theatre, which older more traditional people were filing into ...


we inquired & found out that Kabuki theatre action was going to start in 10 minutes ... got tickets, last seats in back row, but still ... great costume & make-up, hilarious gesticulations, exaggerated, slapstick voices ... couldn't understand what they were staying, but from the context the act we saw seemed to be about a woman who couldn't get married because her hair would freak out & stand straight up ... they wouldn't let you take photos so you'll just have to google it ... we also found out after that this was the last month of shows for the Kabuki-za theatre [that opened it's doors in 1889] ... perhaps that's what the countdown sign above says? ... sad.

then j had to give this public presentation for Millennium Promise Japan [funny, i made this page when i rebuilt the MP website last year] ... i don't get to see j speak often, so it was interesting & also interesting from a language perspective as there was a translator who had to translate everything j said, it was an art into itself ... afterwards we were taken to a sushi bar in Ginza [thanks Rieko!] ... there was one chef working solo that would decide what to give you & kept putting plates in front of us & telling us exactly how it should be eaten ... yet another amazing meal...

Ginza sushi bar

Ginza sushi bar

15.10.2009.Tokyo to Kyoto

woke up, had breakfast on top of Tokyo again & took the subway to Tokyo station where we caught the high-speed bullet train [Shinkansen] to Kyoto ... the train goes so fast you get kind of sick looking out the window ...

train to Kyoto


onward to Kyoto ...



(c) 2009 Derek White

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