Thursday, March 23, 2006

Just keep walking...Just keep walking...

2nd post coming straight atcha out of the Dirty Dirty Miyahara!  I've got some stories to tell so lets get to it without any fuss!

The Next day...
The next morning, after our late night eating Yakitori (which was very tasty and elicited amazed looks from the owner of the spot when we order the amount of food we did.) We woke up late.  Adam felt bad about us not getting up early to suck the life out of the day, but I was grateful for the extra sleep.  I did wake up early and sent emails and made that first post but then I went back to bed and slept till 11am.  Which was nice.  No, fuck that.  It was wonderful.  I mean, once you get past sleeping on an inch thin futon mattress on the floor.  Uncomfortable, to say the least, but I'm getting used to it.  We got ourselves ready, gathered our things and headed out into the cold Nihon mid morning.  We figured we'd go to the Sword Museum, hit up Akihabara to feast on the electronic orgy, grab some dinner and then run around looking for books and what not.

The Museum of Swords...poetry in steel
The sword museum was located in a small neighborhood filled with small, rich looking houses and tons of mercedes coupes.  We arrived at the museum with high hopes and were not dissappointed except for the fact that they wouldn't allow pictures inside.  So I'll have to describe it to you from what I remember.  The art of making a Japanese sword, like a Tachi or a Katana, is a very involved process that I only partially understand.  There are no blades in the world that compare.  We saw all numbers of blades and I was amazed at the differences between the lengths and witdths and curves of all the blades.  Like all things, the sword went through changes depending on the age it was made in.  Some ages were longer blades with less curves, other ages saw shorter blades with more pronounced curves.  We spent about an hour and a half marveling at all the blades, at their various differences and the cooling marks made along the edges of the blades.  Simple beautiful.  I would have killed for a picture but there were security guards and security cameras so you'll have to settle for the pics of the sword making implements and tongs and what not, and the two beautfiul cats sitting outside museum (who ran off before I could get the zoom lense on the camera).  I have to admit one thing; I was surpised the sword museum was as small as it was.  I know that the Japanese people have a sort of strange relationship with their Samurai past, so sometimes I wonder if they dont celebrate it like we would imagine that they would.  I figured a sword museum would be a huge, towering affair with thousands of blades and depictions of how to use them and what not, but the Museum was an intimate, cozy joing with about 40 sword blades in all, only a few of which were more than just the blades themselves.  But it was still cool to see.

Back to the train and on to the Akihabara
We marched back to the train station but not before stopping by a McDonalds for a bite to eat.  Pretty much the same as a McDonalds in America except its 100% cleaner, faster, everything is made fresh, the lettuce on my Bic Mac was crispy and fresh, the fries were hot, the people were friendly and nice and I enjoyed my meal without feeling guilty.  So just the same, except the exact fucking opposite of every McDonalds I've ever been in.  Oh, and they have a large array of burgers with egg patties on them.  I didnt even fuck with those.  But sitting down in the McDonalds, overlooking the street down which people were walking home from work, I got a chance to really talk with Adam, something I feel like I havent gotten a chance to do in a long time.  He told me that sunsets can be a little rough for him at times because its his lowest energy point during the day so he has to work hard to keep himself up and fresh and poppin.  I never knew that about him so the revelation made light of a lot of different times in our friendship when he would sort of get real quiet and shut down at wierd times.  Now I understand him a lot more.  But there is still a lot I dont know and Japan has changed him (for the better) in so many ways.  He's way more confident in general, less prone to apologizing all the time, and has a more 'Go with the flow and see where it takes you' spirit that he has longed to have for so long.  Plus he's thinner and healthier wieght wise (although he smokes way too much here).  All in All, this trip is doing good for him.

We jumped on the train and headed to Akihabara, the electronic, manga and videogame district of Japan.  After a moderate train ride, we got off the train and walked into a neon explosion.  I dont know if I mentioned our time in Senjuku, which is a Neon Supernova...but I have picutres of it.  I didnt get any pictures of the Nigerian boosters trying to lure us into overpriced Gentlemans clubs but they were there.  Anyway, Akihabara is the place to go to get electronics.  Now the electronics in Japan arent any cheaper than they are in the US.  The real difference is, there are things coming out in Japan that wont hit the US for like 5 years.  Adam as a small 1 gig mp3 player that is shaped like a green lighter, just a bit bigger, and you use it by rotating and 'lighting' it.  Very cool.  But it cost him $200 bucks.  We went into a sex shop, of which there are plenty, after we went to a bookstore that had a foreign book section where I bought a japanese phrase book.  I've been practicing but not making much headway.  We then tried to find dinner at a Soba restaurant that adam wanted to go to but they were closed.  Well, at least thats what the lady told us as we were trying to go inside, despite the fact that there were people in there already eating.  I told Adam that maybe they were having a private function, but he said,  being a foreigner in Japan, sometimes you run into places that are suddenly closed when you try to get in.  Xenophobia at its best, I suppose.  So, both of us being hungry and wet (it was drizzling slightly and neither of us had an umbrella) we wandered the streets in search of a place to eat that looked halfway decent.  All of a sudden, Adam snaps his fingers together and said 'Rose and Crown, dog...lets head there for a pint and I'll bust out my Japan tour book and we can find a place to eat.' I'm all for it so we head to Rose and Crowne, an English pub.  We have a couple of Pints of Rose (their incredible house beer that is now my favorite out of the tap, even more so than Amberbock) a quick bite to eat and decided to go to a Rotating Sushi Bar.  Basically you sit at a bar and a conveyor goes around and around, while on the other side, the sushi chefs cut up bits of sushi and put them on plates.  you grab the plate you want and eat it.  At the end they charge you per plate.  A plate might have two pieces of sashimi, one big roll, or 6 small rolls.  Each plate, regardless of what is on it, costs about $1.50 so we ate our fill.  I wasn't nearly as hungry as I thought I would be though but it was pretty good.  OH and before I forget.  They had fresh Eel, babe.  Unagi.  Not the sort of dried/pickled stuff you get in rolls.  This was more like small fillets of eel cooked and laid across rice.  OH.  MY.  GOD.  SO SO SO GOOD!  Or as they say around these parts, TOTOMO OISHIEA!!

I actually jumped around a bit.  Before we searched for food, we went and got Adam some shoes at one of the rare places that sell shoes in big sizes (13 and up).  After spending an hour looking around and trying on differnent things, Adam settled on (with my help) two pairs of really nice black shoes for a 2 for 1 deal that was badass.  He was very happy with his purchase which made me happy for him.  Now he's got new kicks to go with his new clothes that he's gonna wear when we go out clubbing!

So after everything, we headed back towards home and stopped by Embocca for a drink and some relaxing conversation with Shinji, Jun, and the effervescent Akko.  We had a great time talking and joking and they called Adam, with all his hair, Sazaesan, a sort of Giant Female Clam that is SUPER popular with all the kids and adults here.  He thought it was funny and we all had a good laugh as everybody in the bar started singing the theme song while adam danced around.  I also was dubbed Kintaro, which means Giant Golden Samurai or something close to it.  I also had my first taste of Omishu, which is a plum wine.  But the wine I had was homebrewed by Jun's mother.  Chris had it when he came here.  I've never had anything like it.  It's my new favorite drink and Im defiantly gonna look for some good plum wine when I get back home.  I GOTTA have some of that in the house 24-7.

It is at this point that I have to mention the wonderful deed Jun did for me at the bar.  While I was planning on going to Kyoto the following day while Adam was at work, and we vaguely understood that my JR pass would allow me to take the train there for free, we had NO IDEA which trains I could take and when they left or what I had to do.  One of the coolest features on all the Japanese phones or Kay-Tai's is the ability to get on the net and check all the different train times and figure out which trains you have to take to go different places.  Jun took about an hour out of her time at the bar, stood in the corner with her phone and produced for me a list of trains going from Tokyo to Kyoto, along with times as well as coming back.  It was a lot of work, something Adam wasn't able to do and we had despaired of me even going to Kyoto until she did that, which was super cool and the nicest thing somebody has done for me in this country.  I forever owe her my thanks and gratitude.

At this point we went home, I packed and made ready for Kyoto and went to bed at around 3am for a few hours of sleep and the conquering of Kyoto in the morning!!

Onward to KYOTO!  Mystery Lunchbox Surprise!  The Fastest thing on land!
Despite my best intentions, I got up a little late so I missed the very first train out of Miyahara to Omiya.  See, Miyahara is sort of a small town that doesn't get a lot of trains so I have to take the Takasaki line to the next stop which is Omiya, a much much bigger station and the one that I met Adam at.  Omiya then has a line (I took the Bullet Train of Shinkosen) called the Yamabiko directly to Tokyo.  It was 100mph fast.  I then asked around and easily found my super express train to Kyoto.  Very nice train, clean and spacious.  That reminds me.  All of the train stations are super clean.  Especially consider some of these stations see a million people plus a day.  Not a hint of trash or litter or anything like that.  Its incredible.  No funky smells or nothing.  But, the Shinkosen which is a bullet train but a sort of local one, is super fast.  Thats what I took to Tokyo.  But from Tokyo to Kyoto I took the Hikari line, which is the bullet train you might imagine, with the super streamlined front and smooth exterior.  I got on this bad boy and was quickly shown that I don't understand the meaning of the word speed.  As I said in the intro, I've never been on anything that fast or that smooth in my life.  If we were going 200mph I would not be surprised.  It was so fast that looking outside was dizzying to say the least.  The big kicker was how smooth it was.  It was the most seamless ride I've ever had, with nary a bump or shudder.

There is something poetic about riding a Bullet Train through Japan, listening to Miles Davis as the miles roll by.  Just a beautiful experience that I don't really know how to convey.  There are plenty of memories that I will treasure for a long time but this one will be the first thing I think of when I think of my trip in japan.

In the train station in Tokyo, at the insistence of Shinji and Jun, I grabbed a boxed lunch for the trip.  I had no idea what was in it because all of it was in Japanese.  I just grabbed one that costs 1300 yen and was off.  So, about 45 minutes out (after flying through neighborhoods and rice fields, and industrial areas and rivers and mountain tunnels, I decided to bust out my lunch.  If you look at the pics I'm about to post you can see the contents of my lunch...Yes that IS a purple tentacle on the left.  And it was tasty as hell so back up off me!  I ate the whole thing which may have been the tastiest boxed lunch I've had in my life.  Worth every penny.  Two hours after I left Tokyo, I arrived in Kyoto, excited and curious and happy.  I stepped off the train...and realized I LEFT ADAMS JAPAN GUIDEBOOK AT THE APARTMENT!!!

No Plan, No Map, No Clue...sounds like an adventure!
So I walked off the train into the station and looked around bewildered.  I'm looking around for a clue as to where I should go when I spot a Kiosk.  They've got Tourist Maps!! Sweet.  I grab one, pay for it, open it up and am like...okay...where the fuck am I going to go?  I then flag down this Aussie couple who looked kind of reluctant to help me, as if I was going to go home to their hotel room and rape them but the sort of explained where I was on the map.  I then walked out of the station thinking I'm going northwest, heading towards a cluster of temples and shrines.  About an hour later, I ran into two English speaking chaps who informed me that I was actually headed southwest and that where I was going was way way too far to walk to anyway.  They then told me which Chikatetsu (subway) and where to catch it and that I should go to the Nanzenji Temple/Shrine/Park thingy.  So I hoof it up the road, run into a cute Japanese chick who points me in the right direction and I'm off.  Two subway transfers later, I emerge from Kaege Station, near a tunnel.  I check a map, and find out the tunnel is my destination.  Down the tunnel I go, visiting a small park before I'm off to the big temples.  I'm walking and taking pictures and walking and taking pictures.  The temples are hundreds of years old, some of which are achingly beautiful and many don't allow pictures inside the rooms sadly.  But around 6pm, after lots of walking, my feet were crying out for rest and I was tired and it was getting dark.  I had walked about a mile down the Philosophers path, a small stone path along a tiny river that passes several shrines and temples and at each temple I turned off the path and took pics.  I walked back to the train station as the sun set over the mountains, the cherry blossoms just beginning to bloom.  A beautiful sight that I would have enjoyed much more had I not been so tired I almost paid a guy 2000 yen just to take me on his rickshaw back to the station.  But I hoofed it back, just the way I came, and an hour later was on the Hikari back to Tokyo, flying through the night, satisfied with my enlightening journey.

Shinji and Jun and Akko at Embocca, a time for rest...
I had a tough time getting from Tokyo back to Miyahara.  Instead of taking the Yamabiko Shinkonsen back, I took the local train which took forever to get to Omiya.  Once in Omiya I took the wrong train TWICE trying to get back to Miyahara.  I kept winding up in Toro.  Fucking Toro!!  The problem was The Tagasaki and this other train arrive at the same place and go in the same direction...Im a jackass and kept getting on the wrong one.  I finally asked for help and a friendly japanese couple pointed me to the right train.

I got back to Miyahara and realized I didnt know if anyone was home so I headed to Embocca where I found Shinji Jun and Akko chilling out so I had some more Ohmishu, talked about my trip, learned some new japanese and waiting for adam to come through as Jun called him to let him know where I was.  We had a great time and I learned that Shinji wants Adam to sing at the party so that will be a blast.  After a quick beer, we headed home for some rest.  Right now its the next day, and Instead of gallivanting around Japan, I decided to give my feet the day off and am staying in, writing emails and blogs, posting pictures, burning CD's, downloading music, and trying to relax.  It wouldn't be good if I got home more exhausted than I left, and besides we're doing an All-nighter in Rippongi, the club district tonight, so I want to be rested.  Thats it for now...You know where the pics are, people, so go look at em!

(Miles and miles on the Hikari)

1 comment:

Spoken said...

Hey babe, I didn't get a chance to read your post till now but wow. It sounds like you're having a really great time. I'm almost jealous *smile* not really. Ok I am jealous. The blade museum sounded really cool. 1st wife & I have this great idea for a gift for Jun & her husband . We hope we can send it while you're still there. Anyway, just wanted to post up a lil sumthin sumthin. I'll check the new one & comment there.