The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Sunday, October 09, 2005

3 Day Weekend

It's Monday, and it's a national holiday (Sports Day - so I am celebrating by being as physically inactive as possible) so I have no school today. Hurray! And, even better, although I have to work tomorrow, Wednesday is also a holiday. Now, it would have been great if they could have given us 4 consecutive days off, but then again, I have no money at this point (payday is a week away and I have exhausted most of my finances) so I can't afford to really travel anywhere anyway.

On Friday night, I surprised myself by actually going to Jodo class for a change. I was glad I did, but I remember why I don't like going: the commute is busier than usual because it's Friday, and so I had to endure a really uncomfortable train ride home. Oh well.

Saturday, I got up and went into Tokyo to meet a friend of my Japanese friend in Canada. She took me to a really nice restaurant - they serve reasonably priced and delicious Japanese food, and they actually give you quite a lot of food! I got the weekend special, and it came with tons of delicious little side dishes, pickles, soups, condiments, etc. which really make the meal. I'll have to try and remember that place and go again.

Then, we went off in search of a sword shop that I had heard about. It was located on Omotesando-dori, which is kind of Tokyo's "Champs Elysees". It's a gently sloping, treed boulevard, which houses all the most exclusive boutiques and shops like Chanel, Armani, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, and so on. Some of these shops have tuxedoed doormen who open the door for clients and otherwise just stand around looking impressive. Pretty funny. Anyway, the guy at the sword shop was really, really friendly. He let me handle some very expensive pieces ($10,000 - $20,000) and invited me (I never know if this kind of invitation is genuine, or just a show of courtesy) to come back any time and he'd teach me about swords. Wow! I hope he's serious. I'll be going back there soon, I'm sure.

There was a second branch store that I also visited but it was kind of weird. Very impressive, but weird! It seemed as though the store was the first floor of the owner's home. It looked like a museum, with pieces arrayed on the walls, and there were a few people sitting inside, silently examining swords with a very intent, almost funereal atmosphere. I felt like I had intruded on a meeting of a private sword-connoisseur's club, so I didn't stay very long. There was actually another foreigner there, but he spoke excellent Japanese and basically ignored me as he chatted with the owner, so I never learned exactly what was going on.

After that, I wandered over to the Meiji Shrine, a major shrine which houses the spirit of the Meiji emperor who helped to modernize Japan at the turn of the last century. The shrine is a very interesting place. You walk up a long gravel path through the woods, and then pass through a huge torii gate. I would say that the feeling is very solemn... (it's supposed to be, I'm sure)... but unfortunately the solemnity is almost ruined by the many foreigners who are laughing, pointing, wrestling with each other, running around, yelling at their kids to get BACK HERE THIS INSTANT!! I MEAN IT!!, and so on... of course, there are Japanese people misbehaving too, but nowhere near the same degree. It's kind of shameful, really.

Anyway, the shrine grounds are a very popular place to have wedding pictures taken. It's a beautiful place to do it, but the drawback is that you have to endure having your picture taken by all the gawking foreigners (myself included!) Guilty as charged, I'm afraid...

Right in front of the Meiji shrine, there is a spot where all the really weird costume-play kids hang out. These are teenagers whose hobby is to sew bizarre costumes and wear strange makeup. Then, all the foreign visitors take their pictures. It is a weird, carnival-like atmosphere that is hard to describe. Anyway, these costumes are really bizarre (for example, a girl dressed up like a vampiric french maid, with bloody bandages wrapped around her head and arms) and generally make very little sense. I was tempted for a second to take some pictures, but then I decided against it... they so desperately want you to take their pictures that somehow I didn't want to do it!

After that, I took a train over to Roppongi where they are holding an exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci's sketchbooks. I guess (what with the current Japanese "DaVinci Code" boom) that everyone else in Tokyo had the same idea. I saw the huge lineup just to get inside the building, and turned around and headed home. On the way back, I met up with two other Westgate teachers. We had some food and drinks, and met up with some of our students. They are very advanced level kids, so we could communicate really easily in English, which was fun.

Today, I wanted to go in Tokyo again and visit some temples, but it has been raining all afternoon so I decided to save a bit of money and not bother. Come to think of it, maybe I'll take the train fare I saved and go and buy some supper at the rotating-sushi restaurant: a conveyor belt in the center of the restaurant carries plates with different sushi around. You just take whatever plate you want and then at the end the waitress counts your plates. It's funny to go in there and see some fragile-looking old woman with a stack of 15 plates in front of her! I can usually eat about 8 or 10 and then I'm really, really stuffed...

I'll try and update this post with pictures tomorrow...


At 1:05 PM, Blogger Zambo said...

Hey Buddy.

Sounds like you're having a lot of interesting experiences. Sorry to hear that you didn't get to see DaVinci's sketchbooks...

We're off today too ~ for Thanksgiving...I watched The Oprah this morning...maybe I'll do a little write-up later...I know what you mean about her...It's hard to watch sometimes, but she is kinda likeable...and disarming.

Take care and keep an eye on those costumed attention-seekers...I saw "Party Monster" (2003)...

Your Pal,



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