July 25, 2010

Japan 2010, Day 3

On Thursday I introduced mrguy to Kappabashi, the kitchenwares section of town. I left with a few pedestrian items, but nothing fabulous. We did see some great stuff in our wanderings, though. This building must have once housed an insect shop. I'm not sure why you'd have a giant hercules beetle glommed onto your building otherwise. It is now a craft shop.

This building has a mascot on top and I don't know what she represents.

We also saw this anthropomorphic hotdog, who was anointing himself with ketchup in a shop of curiosities. Wow.

Then we made our way over to Ueno, so that mrguy could shop for denim. He loves it so.

Our first stop in Ueno was an alleged museum of local handicrafts, which was something else, actually. Across the arcade from it, however, was a little restaurant where we ate lunch (pea shoots and big bowls of udon). I loved the view in this spot, so I took some blurry pictures to share. Mrguy wishes his eyes were cameras, because he was facing some sort of local soap opera at the table behind me that had him riveted.

Sustained, we went to the warren of shops tucked underneath the train tracks at the Ueno train station. It's just chaos there.

Music blares out of all corners and tauts bark loudly at you to try to get your business, or at least your attention. We had the customary feeling of not knowing where our destination was just as Americaya appeared in front of us. Whew. I hung out in the aloha shirt section while mrguy tried on jeans.

This was primarily a shopping trip for mrguy. Although my favorite purse came from Ueno two years ago, nothing really called out to me this time. Until...in the photo above you can just make out a rack of 45s to the right. This is the place where I found my singing sumotori.

After Ueno we took a train to Mitaka to see jazz at Club Unamas. We'd met the owner at a conference a few years ago, and he'd given us a live recording made at his club. We enjoyed it so much that we decided to make a pilgrimage to the club when we came back to Japan. It was well worth the trip, and an amazing night.

Accustomed to local clubs, where you might not get in if you don't have advance tickets, we hopped an early-ish train to Mitaka. We needn't have worried. Mrguy and I were the sum total of the crush of jazz lovers at the door. We sat on the steps outside the club, listening to someone inside practicing the drums. It was Koda, the son of the owner, who's a fabulous drummer. And the bartender.

When he opened up the club, we had a beer and waited for something to happen. The band filtered in. A woman and her adult daughter came in. Now the four of us were the full audience for a really wonderful night of music. The unnamed band was a pickup band for the night. Standard jazz drummer, a woman on standup bass. The singer, heavily influenced by Chet Baker, sang smooth standards. He rarely faced the audience, suspended notes in mid-air and multi-tasked while singing flawlessly. Between phrases he'd open the lid of the baby grand and prepare to play it, or take off his knitted hat and use it as a mute for his trumpet. It was good. All of it. We sat through two sets.

And we were starving. I thought there'd be food at the club, and there was not. We ran across the street after leaving the club and foraged among the half-price sushi with the locals at the supermarket before closing time, leaving with a bizarre assortment of food to eat in bed after the train ride home.

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