We left the mountains while the hurricane held a blanket of cloud over southern Japan. By the time we approached Tokyo we were seeing the kind of beautiful skies that seem to appear most often after extreme weather. Before long we were back in the underground subway system and then, as on our arrival, emerging into the Tokyo night life.
Angela and I found our Ryokan after getting to street level and getting into a cab. When we showed the driver the address he laughed and told us to walk up half a block and turn right. We checked in, put our luggage away and went for a walk. I was beginning to feel the pull of home and the fatigue that two weeks on the road can inflict on a sixty-year-old travel-neophyte. I put my larger SLR away and decided to only carry my point & shoot for the last 48 hours of our trip.
Ange wanted to see 'Electric Town'. I would have been happy sitting in one of the comfortable lounges we passed, watching the Japanese World Series, but I knew Angela wanted to spend part of the next day on her own so I stuck with her.
'Electric Town' is one of those areas with neon canyons and super-sized billboards. Young women, dressed as sexy French maids, would come out of doorways and try to entice me into the restaurants where they worked. Apparently this was very popular with young men with under-developed self-esteem. There is no sex involved but the customers are pampered and flirted with. I wasn't comfortable taking pictures of these young women. You'll have to take my word that they exist. I understand that the fashions change unexpectedly; French maids one day - cheerleaders (or whatever) the next.
In among the highrises of the area you might find a little art-deco restaurant like the one below.
The next day we got up as early as we could and made our way to the Tokyo fish-market, grabbing a macha latte on the way. Of course Angela made friends with the barrista before we left.
The Tokyo Fish Market is something else. We have the Granville Island Market in Vancouver but this was bigger and different. You have to wake up and get there by six a.m. if you want to see the fish auction. We didn't do that but we did get there in time for sushi breakfast.
Before we had breakfast I wanted to buy Michael a special present. It was great being with Angela but I thought a lot about the people at home and I wished Mike could have been with us. I decided on a hand-made knife.
I stopped at this kiosk and started to talk to a young chef from Hawaii (he looked like Chad Owens). He assured me that these guys were famous and he came to Japan specifically to buy some knives from them. I picked one out and they put Mike's initials on it. I was thrilled.
Then it was time for breakfast. Angela was in a bind. She wanted the best sushi in Tokyo and so she thought that the best places would be the ones with the longest lines. But she didn't want to wait 40 minutes to eat. I told her that we were in the Tokyo Fish Market; how bad could any of them be. And besides, the ones with no lines probably tried harder (the old Tilden car rental motto). She relented.
We had a fabulous feast of sushi and, when we left, there was a line-up a half a block long outside the place where there had been no line-up when we went in. I felt like Solomon.
From there we went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. I was in heaven. Angela left and I have to admit that I was a little anxious about getting around Tokyo on my own. My friend Doug had agreed to meet me at the Shibuya subway station. I got there, thought I was lost, got some confusing directions and ended up back where I started. I couldn't help but think of the wonderful movie, 'Enlightenment Guaranteed'. It was one of the reasons I was in Japan. I saw myself in a tent on the streets of Tokyo and getting a job as a waiter in a bar where they dress in leiderhosen and play oompahpah music. But I took pictures as I wandered.
If you watched the trailer for 'Enlightenment Guaranteed' you will recognize the man in the photo below. He is the Japanese laborer that I have seen in so many movies. Heroic and proud, whether polishing the floor of a monastary, turning the grinding wheel of a mill or cleaning the handrail of an escalator, as this man was.
I finally found the place where I was to meet Doug. If you don't know the story of Hachiko, here it is.
I had gotten there almost two hours early because when I set out I expected to get even more lost than I did. It gave me a lot of time to look around. I haven't talked about the fashions in Japan, especially Tokyo. They were interesting.
Shibuya has the multi-direction intersection ...
Lots of shopping opportunities ...
places where you can destress by petting kittens ...
and everything for keeping up with the latest fashion trends.
I found a beautiful area under a section of elevated subway tracks ...
and even some more bicycles against walls!
Even the railings between the sidewalks and the streets seemed worth looking at.
Doug finally arrived and we wandered Shibuya, going into guitar shops, buying tobacco and a lighter that didn't use fuel but electricity and charged by being put in a usb port. That was for a friend of mine back home but some of the tobacco came in handy later. He also helped me find an inexpensive set of headphones that I would be able to use on the flight home, rather than those awful three dollar ear buds that Air Canada sells.
We stopped for a meal and a beer and I convinced Doug to help me get back to my Ryokan. It had a bar and we finished the night drinking and smoking some of the very strong cigarettes that I had bought. There were a lot of travellers there that night from all over the world, and one quite inebriated local who said Kurasawa was not a very intelligent director. I told him that made Kurasawa perfect for me. Doug met a young man from Malta who shared his beliefs regarding pantheism and disco's debt of gratitude to German techno-pop bands. It was a fun night.
The next morning Ange and I got up, had our last 7-11 breakfast and wandered Tokyo until it was time to go to the airport.
Time for one last meal.
I was looking forward to going home and sad to leave at the same time.
But mostly I was grateful for having had the opportunity to step outside my world and see something brand new; something I had almost decided I would never have the chance to see.
I came home with a pocketful of Japanese coins, foreign ink on my passport for the first time, at least a thousand photos and a head full of memories; many that I haven't shared here but hopefully I can tell you about in person some day.
I also found a little watch, rescued it from beneath the feet of the subway passengers on the way to the airport. I didn't have the opportunity to find a 'lost and found', so I kept it. I have it still; and as long as it runs, it will be on Japan time.
Thank you all for giving me the opportunity to relive a special time. And thanks for your generous comments. I can't forget to thank Sydney for helping us plan this trip, you did a great job.
But most of all, thanks Ange!