The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Vertigo, But No Van Gogh

Hi everyone! At last I had a weekend worth reporting. Not that I did anything spectacular, but I got out of the house, at least.

On Saturday, Peter (one of the other teachers -- a guy from Waterloo, actually) managed to finagle tickets to Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith out of one of his students who works at the movie theater in Kashiwa. This was a special sneak preview because the movie doesn't actually open in Japan until next month. So we were pretty lucky to get them. We waited in line for about an hour, and then in our seats for another half hour or so. By the time the movie started, I really couldn't have cared less. It's the first time I've watched a Star Wars movie with absolutely no enthusiasm whatsoever. You'd think under those circumstances that I might be pleasantly surprised, but I was really disappointed. The action scenes were pointless, the plot was overly convoluted, the "drama" was laughable... in fact, there were about 4 separate occasions where the 4 of us burst out laughing at the horrible dialog while the rest of the Japanese crowd around us (reading the subtitles) probably wondered what was so damn funny.

After the movie, we convened to the local sports bar where we watched the rugby match between New Zealand and England. Marcus and Peter are rugby fans, so it was their idea, but I enjoyed it anyway, despite not really understanding the rules.

On Sunday, Marcus was going in Shinjuku (the very center part of Tokyo... the most urban place imaginable, basically) for a walking tour that was described in his Tokyo City Guide. The theme was "Vertigo and Van Gogh". We started off by checking out some of the tallest buildings in Tokyo that offer free city views. We went up to the 45th floor of one bank building and looked out... unfortunately, it was very humid so there was a lot of haze. Nevertheless, it's disconcerting to look out over a city, the edges of which are completely lost in the distance. Tokyo is HUGE...

Then we went to the headquarters of one of Japan's largest insurance companies... they have a large collection of French art including (usually) Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" which they bought for something like $200 million, making it the most expensive painting in the world. Of course, the Van Gogh wasn't on display when we were there because it was being reconditioned. Argh! Oh well, I've seen it plenty of times in books... sigh. Anyway, they had tons of other famous French paintings from about 1600 onward. Absolutely beautiful, and stunning to see in person. I did a bit of oil painting this spring, and now I wish that I could have had access to some of these incredible portraits to steal some techniques and get some inspiration...

After the gallery we went on to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings, which are huge towers which also have free observation galleries. Very dizzying, and a great view in 360 degrees, even with the haze. Our last stop was an office building with an immensely tall, hollow core. There is a glass ceiling too, and a sky-bridge that crosses the core of the building at about the 50th floor. So you look up from the ground floor, and there's a tiny little bridge way up in the sky, and then you take the elevator up, and you look down on all the people wandering around like ants below. It's absolutely terrifying if you're afraid of heights (like me). I couldn't stay up there very long.

Then we went to Kinokuniya to buy some English books (I had run out) and by that time, we were pretty exhausted from wandering around in the 90 degree heat, so we went home and tried the local "shabu-shabu" restaurant. Shabu-shabu is a type of cooking where they bring you a pot with a flavoured broth, and then they bring all kinds of vegetables and meat and you cook it yourself, then dip everything into a raw egg (that gets partially cooked). Then you dip that into a special sauce... I don't know if that sounds good or not, but it's really delicious. It's funny that, when people think Japanese food, they just think of Sushi; I think a Shabu-Shabu restaurant would be a big success in North America, but you'd have to convince people to try it first!

I'll try and put up some pictures of our trip when Marcus e-mail some of his digital photos to me. Until then, here's a photo of the local "Mine Mart" - your one-stop shop for anti-personnel mines. The ultimate in home protection! New and previously-enjoyed models available. Test-explode a Mine Mart mine today!


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