I know what you're asking: where have I been? Why no news of Japan?
Before we went to Japan I maxed out my iPhoto, crashed my computer, and I have been sorting through photos. Moving ahead, I will learn to use iPhoto Manager. In the meantime I feel stranded amongst my photos with so much to say. It's like wanting to dance but being encumbered by a leg cast.
I'm going to start us off easy with an update on some collections. On our first Friday in Tokyo we went back to Ueno, to visit the denim stores that crowd under the train tracks of the Ueno station. Mrguy found the rare denim he was looking for, and I found a record shop with bins and bins of 45s outside of it. My idea of heaven. Also significantly less expensive than the denim.
I went through all of the bins, secretly hoping that I would find more Japanese Tobacco Singers, but knowing that I probably wouldn't.
Right away I started finding them. What a score! Then I also found 45s depicting men in kimonos with their hair dressed in a mage. Could these be singing sumo wrestlers? Too good to be true.
The owner of the store, probably in his late 60s, came out at one point to make sure that I understood that there were records inside those sleeves, not cds. I followed him inside to ask a few questions (by which I mean gesture and awkwardly mispronounce a few nouns):
Me (pointing) "Mage!"
Nice Man: "Hai".
Nice Man "Hai". As I brought out my notebook he told me the guy's name. Kitanofuji. Sounded familiar.
Me: "Yokozuna? Ozeki?"
Nice Man said he didn't know. He told me the other guys' names.
I went home with the sumotori and the smoking singers, and am quite happy.
I brought the 45s with me when we went to see friends in Yokohama. They filled in the gaps.
One of the sumotori was Kitanofuji. He reached the highest rank of sumo and is a stablemaster now.
The other, Masuiyama II, reached the second-highest rank in sumo and is also a stablemaster now.
The names of some of the songs (as translated by friends) are fabulous: "A Story at a Bar", "A Mutter of that Lady" and "The Chanko Song" (chanko is a stew eaten by sumo wrestlers).
Now that I've written this, I'm heading to the turntable to give these records a spin.