December 11, 2008

Japan 2008, Day 7

I've probably neglected to mention that we had jet lag the entire trip. It manifested itself as euphoria all the way until after my presentation, and then cheerful but penetrating fatigue the days in Tokyo.

We woke up a little later on that last full day and met with a young friend and colleague from home. By this point my idea of planning and even conversation were failing me fast. It was delightful and I hope she forgives my poor manners.

Coffee did give us a lift enough to get to Shibuya. At one of the stations I saw this sign, which I can loosely interpret as "Do not offer your finger to a small crab."

We found Shibuya but could not for the life of us find Mecca (i.e. Tokyu Hands). What we found instead was that within four blocks of Shibuya Crossing, there are little neighborhoods where you can't even hear the din. Places where I would totally live. That was unexpected.

We did find T.H. after a bit, and it was wonderful. Within seconds we located two shelves worth of pigeon repellent. This is one of the better examples:

I found my favorite discontinued Moleskine books, and pointless, stupid gag underwear. At what occasion are hot pants with a faucet attached to the crotch considered appropriate? And stuffed Totoros and thermohygrometers, and a huge array of beautiful signage. Mrguy said (as he did everywhere) "This place is amazing!!" I told him that if I die first, he is to cremate me and surreptitiously sprinkle my ashes in the aisles of Tokyu Hands.

After a while he started looking like his eyes were rotating in opposing circles, so we went in search of food. Not far away was a basement cafeteria whose line was just long enough for us to figure out how to order. The clerk said my sprout was kawaii, which is one of the few non-food or sumo words I understand. Much appreciated! A little tempura lotus root and some udon and we were back in action.

Mrguy had some record stores he wanted to find, and our pursuit of them took us places we wouldn't have gone otherwise. First we explored windy streets with little hippie storefronts displaying Tibetan textiles and incense. Kinda Santa Cruz-like. And nearby were straight up dorm buildings from the 1960's with small specialty record stores.

Manual of Errors was in one of those buildings and was accessible only via an external hallway.

Visiting this store was like visiting the dollar bins in record stores at home ten years ago, only the records are $165 apiece. The owner happens to specialize in oddities, which tends to be my taste. Some of his oddities were too odd and *not* my taste (so that's where all those Rudy Ray Moore records went!!), but he had some great stuff. I fell in love with a sweet record by JR and his Soulettes, and wanted to buy it. He said I could get it at home and wouldn't sell it to me. You can hear a little bit of their music here.

At this point I wanted to go find the flea market at a temple in Shinjuku. Mrguy got us to the neighborhood, but we never found the temple. There was a small stage near the station where a lady bellowed into a microphone about something...wait!! They were shilling for Calbee, my favorite potato chip brand. And they were giving out samples. I love them for their creative flavors but it turned out later that they've finally come out with plain potato chips. Irony in action.

Mrguy attempted to navigate us toward the temple, but we were so dead tired by this point and a little navigationally challenged. The good people of the red light district left us alone as we navigated their streets with our tired tourist faces and Tokyu Hands bags. I didn't even realize that this was a sketchy neighborhood until I saw a sign for "Slut to Slut." Whatever.

We walked for miles and saw some awesome stuff.

By now I was dying to see the last hour of the sumo basho. Ama and Hakuho were tied and Ama was up for promotion to ozeki, and somehow I just...felt like having a pint at this english pub instead. Can't quite explain. I just needed a break.

But in the last *half* hour we hurried around Shinjuku trying to figure out who might have a tv going that would be showing the tournament. Again, our travels took us to crazy places as we were emboldened by pursuit of some strange interest. Again, the people of Tokyo were amused by a lady with no Japanese language skills looking for sumo on television.

We headed to the train station but somehow found Kinokuniya instead. The Kinokuniya where I live has sumo magazines. The Kinokuniya in Tokyo does not. What's wrong with this picture? But mrguy got a fashion magazine and a Happy End singles cd.

I told mrguy that if we didn't go straight to the Hawaiian restaurant I'd be done for.

He insisted on going back to the hotel. I got in the bed with all my clothes on. I was done.

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