Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I'd heard that the first day of June sparked the beginning of the rainy season in Japan, so was prepared for a week of wet 'n' warm. Unsure, even now, if Japan's weather is as unpredictable as Scotland's, Friday 1st June came as a surprisingly sunny day. Damp and overcast in the morning, a few clouds before lunch and an afternoon and evening of clear skies.
Breakfast was taken in Shinjuku station. Three wonderful cakes, none, sadly, containling custard; coffee. I adore Japanese food. Really, I do, but for some reason cannot stomach it first thing in the morning. Fish and pickled plums does not a morning feast make. Breakfast in the UK, for me, consists only of liquids as a rule. I convince myself that I'm not addicted to it, but a coffee-free morning is hellish. Raw milk makes me feel physically sick, so breakfast cereals are avoided at all costs. Toast should be easy, but it's not. Bleary-eyed and heaving the toaster out from the cupboard first thing in the morning is not for me, dear reader. Mole hills are mountains within the first hour of Minge's day. So, as a rule, breakfast is coffee and nothing else; a multi-grain bar if I'm feeling hungry, which is rare. Hunger is not a rare morning feeling in Japan! The omnipresent European bakery/coffee shop is a delight and I pack in as many calories buring breakfast as I normally do during the course of an entire day, I'm sure.
After breakfast, we headed over to Ginza for a stroll around the Sony Building. Sadly, we were there far too early. It opened, along with most other shops, at either ten or eleven o'clock. What's a girl to do, out on the street of a morning - find a coffee shop for a slice of cake and a cappuccino, Kath!
I love Japanese people and their language. It's strange, wild and exciting. In the coffee/cake shop, I found myself intrigued by something which looked decidedly cheesecakey. The poor wee boy behind the counter could see I was puzzled, so attempted to help me with, "Caku."
But what kind of caku? And dare I ask?
When the japanese borrow a word from another language, they kind of japanise it. Is that a word? It is now. A borrowed word ending in a consonant will usually have an O or U bunged on the end. But was caku a borrowed word or a a japanese word I'd never heard before? To save any further problems or embarrassment, I simply nodded and said, "Hai."
It turned out to be pumpkin pie.
Later, perhaps even the next tday, on telling this story to Alan, he told me how the Japanese even reverse the borrowed word rule and remove the final vowel from western words ending in them. The funniest example he gave was of a woman telling him she wanted to go to Toront.
While finishing my coffee, Ian scrambled about in his bag for my address book. Shit. It wasn't there. How were we to call Alan and Junya to confirm our time of arrival without their telephone number? Well, we couldn't. But contact could be made via email - so off we trotted to the Apple Shop! It's not really a shop, though I'm sure people buy things there from time to time. Each and every computer has a westerner in front of it, looking up news from home on the internet or emailing friends. It's a massive cyber café - and totally free. I emailed Alan and told him we'd be there between one and two o'clock as previously arranged. Then just hoped and prayed he'd check his email and not be worried over the lack of a telephone call.
From Apple to Sony and The Sony Building. Amazing. Just like any traditional museum replete with museum shop, though filled entirely with electronica! Everything from ancient old computers to the tiniest of MP3 players. We must have spent a good couple of hours in there, playing around with gadgets and wondering how the hell we got by with the most massive and slow PCs.
The way to Alan and Junya's house in Yokohama seems straightforward for a sheep like me. I just follow whomsoever's leading, whether it be Alan, Junya or, indeed, Ian. JR, Yokohama Metro, Tokyo Subway and Tokyo Metro route maps are just too much for my tiny brain to cope with, so I find it's best to just look away in fear of popping. After three visits, some stations and place names do now ring bells, though they rarely make any sense to me and orientating myself between stations is impossible. I recall Azamino, Shinjuku, Sakuragicho, Shibuya, Shin-Yokohama and the Den-en-toshi line, but that's about it. Names, names, names. Just words.
However, by (my) luck and (Ian's) judgement, we managed to propel our way from Ginza to Alan and Junya's house without much trouble. It was glorious to see them both and their delightful young family; a son, Yamato; a daughter, Himiko.
By this point, I was welling up. Sisters, sisters, never were there such devoted sisters. Once I'd managed to pluck my finger out of Alan's surprisingly tight bum-hole, we enjoyed the most delicious mochi and green tea served up by Junya. I adore mochi. Little mouthfuls of heaven - and this year, new varieties! We were introduced to a pink one and one wrapped in preserved cherry leaves. Most delicious! This Minge is a greedy wee boy and I shamelessly ate two. Though perhaps the second I shared with the equally greedy Alan. He can pack a lot in, I tell thee!
After filling our faces with japanese goodies, the six of us headed out for a wee walk around Alan and Junya's local trolling ground. The boys themselves were careful not to give the game away, though the poor dogs were not so wiley and let the cat out of the bag by heading straight into the first cottage we came upon. I bet if I'd gone in there I'd have seen Alan and Junya's mobile telephone numbers on the walls of the lock-ups.
Our walk in the park was fabulous. Japanese people, in some respects, are terribly British. We met fellow dog walkers and graciously exchanged compliments with them, though, to be frank, we were totally false as Himiko and Yamato were by far the prettiest kids on the block. I'm deadly serious. We also saw a group of elderly women painting scenes of cottages and a duck pond; queens mincing; children fishing.
We walked the long way back home with Alan and the children; Junya, the short. He had an interview to attend later and needed to ready himself. After meeting up with him once more and calming the darlings down to an evening sans people, the adults popped out to a fabulous suchi restaurant where we devoured an absolute ton of barely dead fish and rice. I'd have drunk some sake with my food, but still being on antibiotics, I decided it was better to be good, to be patient.
I'd bought some pills earlier in the day from a man in a chemist shop in Shinjuku. With my non-existent Japanese and his very basic English, I'd hoped I'd made it plain I'd like something to help me bring the phlegm off of my chest. Phew. Thanks to Junya's excellent translation skills, I'd got what I wanted and not the birth control pill or ground up tiger penis. I still have the tablets, actually, and will use them if ever the necessity arises again. They worked wonderfully.
From the glorious sushi restaurant (where we learned it's socially acceptable to eat it with your fingers), Junya headed off to Tokyo for a job interview while Alan, Phyllis and I headed off to the port area of Yokohama to enjoy the celebrations commemorating the opening up of Japan to trade, all thanks to Admiral Perry.
I felt a strange sense of homecoming on seeing Landmark Tower. It's the tallest building in Japan and just around the corner from Alan's first proper home in Japan, a flat he shared with an outrageous lesbian called Eleanor.
Cosmo World (a theme park) was a riot. Alan and Phyllis went on some bizarre rides taking them round and round and upside down. I refused. However, I did agree to go into the haunted house (where I was GRABBED!) and on an god-awful lof flume ride where I thought I was going to die! Scream? I thought I'd ejected my lungs from my body. I hated it, though in a weird way, the way in which I enjoy a horror film. I kind of got off on the fear and will admit to having had a boner as we hit the water. In my love/hate confusion, I lost a nose pad from my spectables. Alan is a kind man and spent what seemed like an hour helping me to find an optician in order for me to be able to wear my vision aids. I simply can't get by without them, see. Well, I can, I can see, sort of, though will siffer, without much delay, a violent headache. Also, I will trip up and many cups, saucers and plates will end up smashed on the floor.
From the optician, we went back to Cosmo World and took a trip on the ferris wheel from where we watched the fireworks. The fireworks came as something as a surprise as Alan had been told they weren't going to be set off that night. I love nice surprises. A nasty surprise would have been an earthquake at that point. The ferris wheel would have toppled over and we'd have all died horrible deaths. See, being a pesimist makes me happy.
How I was convinced to go on the ferris wheel and the log flume thingy, I'll never know. But there was worse to come, much worse, but that's another story and something for another day...
Oh! I nearly forgot the dancing dragons! Did we see them before the ferris wheel or after? And the frozen yogurt! Did we enjoy that (I had NY chessecake flavour) before or after the optician? Was I drunk? No! Just over-excited!
What a fabulous day, a fabulous night. After all that fun, we went our separate ways. Alan headed off back home, Ian and I back to Shinjuku and the Tokyo Park Hyatt, though to be frank, I think I'd have preferred to have gone back to Alan's place for the fun to continue.
Still, I had something to cheer me up... In-between alighting the train in Shinjuku station and finding the hotel, we came upon a Lawson's Station, a fabulous convenience store, part of a chain found all over Japan. Each and every one sells crème caramels in abundance. I bought one, a pack of Pocky, some crisps and headed off to bed.
Look at the day, dear reader, from Alan's angle - and click here.