July 10, 2010

Japan 2010, Day 2

I planned a relatively slow start to our vacation.

We ate breakfast at the hotel, and tried to see the Suntory Museum, which was very near our hotel. At least it used to be. It has moved to Roppongi. 

Instead, we headed to the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. The exhibition called Where Is Architecture was mind-blowing -- a series of installations within (and one wrapping around) the museum.
Hiroshi Kikuchi's one day inside a museum was riveting. We sat inside one small gallery while mechanical devices churned in another room and a distorted black and white projector captured their shadows and smeared them across the wall of the gallery. Ryoji Suzuki's Experience in Material No.50 is like a 3D picket fence made of matchstick-width metal. You can walk beside it and look over your shoulder to play with the strobe effect. Hiroshi Naito's Red Stripes is a series of red lasers that point toward the floor in a darkened room. Scarves sat in a lucite box near the entrance. I took a scarf, tossed it in the air, and it was shot through with stripes. This room was so magical that I danced in it and played with the scarf for about fifteen minutes.

After this, we looked at the permanent collection. I remember liking Iwane Sumiya's Daily Task of Love in a Factory. They also had an awesome Robert Delaunay.

There wasn't a good place to eat nearby, so we headed back to our neighborhood and Jingu Stadium. We walked and walked and walked and finally found the Fiat Cafe. Hilarious. It was like being stuck in the video for Michael Jackson's "Scream", only in red and white, happy, and with food. There was a real Fiat in the lobby downstairs.

Fueled, we were ready to go find baseball. We walked the rest of the way to the ballpark. Stadium is an overstatement. Although baseball teams we've seen on television seem to have American big-league style parks, Jingu Stadium, home of the Yakult Swallows, is quite modest. It's down home and intimate. The concessions are housed in a few tents in the parking lot. You can stand around and watch the baseball players arrive. The ticket vendor asks you, basically, if you're want tickets on the bride or the groom's side, because you sit on the side you're rooting for. For us, it was the Swallows.

Out in the stands, there are nice ladies who wear sandwich boards that warn that foul balls are a possibility. Who wants that job? And they blow a whistle during the game when a foul ball has been hit. So thoughtful! Perhaps this is a local custom. The food at the park is awesome, of course. I had a nice rice bowl and mrguy had a bento. One of us had this amazing ball of tempura with crazy stuff in it -- the Rat King of tempura. And sembei. Rice crackers are the perfect food for baseball watching. Who knew?

I'm sorry to go on about this, but the game was so fun. The YS mascot is a jaunty little bird.

He has a wife and children, and an alter ego that is a breakdancing pickle. No really. And there are cheerleaders, too, in the most modest uniforms you can imagine. At Jingu they will sell you a mixed drink in the stands in the tenth inning, and the beer vendors wear the beer in canisters on their back and pour you a draft. Yum!

I wish I had recorded the sound in the ballpark. The Orix Buffaloes' cheering section made a joyful noise the entire game. They had a large brass band, whose sound was similar to Klezmer. The local team had no band, but they played funny songs on the loudspeaker for every player. When the Canadian guy came to bat they played Happy Birthday one time, and the Canadian national anthem another time. What's next? Turkey in the Straw?

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows lost in extra innings. They're kind of the Toronto Bluejays of Japan in that way. Tired but entirely satisfied, we made our way home and decided to try to catch a game later in our stay, when we came back to Tokyo.

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