Japan 2014, Part 3.

My second day in Tokyo. Tokyo is an enormous city, all sprawled out like L.A. I saw some sections of Tokyo that had the standard Japanese two-story house:


And one place (Odaiba, a man-made island) with super-modern Jetsons architecture:


But for the most part I saw what I call “1980s Corporate Blah” or, if you went to SUNY Purchase, “Student Housing”.

architecture-meh architecture-snow

I didn’t come to Tokyo for the architecture, so it wasn’t an issue. If you go to Japan one thing you will notice immediately is that things are smaller. I noticed it when I checked into our hotel room and the doorframes were about 5’10”. And when I went into the bathroom I said, “I don’t remember signing up to be an astronaut.” Everything in the bathroom was a wee bit smaller and lower to the ground and the walls were covered with large plastic panels. Here is a pic I took in front of the sink. I am 5’6″. Notice where the sink is in relation to me.


The Moomins, who is 5’4″ at her tallest, is touching the ceiling. She isn’t even trying. Later on when we were on the tour bus, I had to sit either with my legs splayed in the most unladylike manner or smushed against the seat next to me on an angle. Because there was about eight inches between the end of my seat and the seat in front of me. That’s standard. Are you tall? Do you have long legs? Stay home.


The reason for this: Japan is about the size of California and has 125 million inhabitants (California had 38 million). Here’s the problem, though: 70% of the country is covered by pointy mountains and 5% is lakes, so the 125 million people live in an area 1/4 the size of California. There’s really not a lot of space. Look at this truck. I saw trucks like this everywhere. Teeny weeny trucklet.


Not really topically related: This was the sign on the bathroom door. I found it amusing.


Don’t get me wrong, the hotel was excellent. It was not a fancy hotel or anything like that. The hotel had some of the worst design clashing I’ve seen in ages. Here was the elevator bay on our floor.


It was the equivalent of a Holiday Inn, but when we arrived there were pajamas waiting for us on the bed and sanitized floor slippers. In the bathroom there was toothbrushes and toothpaste and razors and shampoo and conditioner and body wash and shower caps and other things that I didn’t investigate. This was the case in all the hotels we stayed in. You can forget most of your toiletries at home and it is not an issue. The beds were comfy and we had fancy buckwheat hull pillows. It was great and not expensive (like almost everything else in Japan). I think the rooms were in the $125 a night range which is totally reasonable.

The Moomins really wanted to go to the Tsukiji Fish Market. It is massive and impressive and predominantly known for the giant tuna auctions. It is highlighted in the documentary Jiro Dreams Of Sushi. For some reason I could not for the life of me say Tsukiji. TSOO-KEE-JEE. Couldn’t get the hang of it somehow. I ended up calling it the Tuskegee Fish Market or the Tzatziki Fish Market. I fail at Japanese. We headed over to the market fairly early but it didn’t matter because it was a holiday, so there was no trucks or people.


This sign was on the outside. Please notice the “no drunk” image.


COME ON. There was no effort made there. I came up with this in ten minutes. I feel like going back and sticking this on the placard.


Since we had trekked all the way out to the industrial part of town, we decided to go to the park nearby. It was absolutely lovely. I have an unhealthy obsession with Asian pine trees. The pine trees we’re accustomed to are the cone-shaped ones, but in Japan they look like Dr. Seuss designed them. They’re all asymmetrical and some are dumpy and some are blobby, they’re just the greatest. This park had a lot of pine trees.

pine-trees1 pine-trees2

As a bonus, perched in the pine trees were ravens. As if the trees weren’t awesome enough on their own.

crow1 crow2

In addition it was my first interaction with Engrish. Engrish, in case you don’t know, is when people, like Asians who do not use the Roman alphabet, translate their language into English and the results are not quite right. There’s a website called engrish.com that has some stellar examples. I used to think it was funny but now after being there it’s more like, “So close! Valiant attempt!” Most of the time it was right technically, it was just a phrasing or word choice that was uncommon. Here’s the sign in the park that made me smile.


This park was special for several reasons. One, it had really cool walls that sloped up in the corners.


Two, they had a very old, very large pine tree. I believe it was 300 years old.

300-year-old-pine-tree1 300-year-old-pine-tree2

Three, in the brochure I saw the sweetest thing. Check it out.


That afternoon The Moomins and I headed to the train station to go to Kyoto. Please notice that To-Kyo and Kyo-To is the same thing switched. They were both capital cities at different points in time and I know Tokyo means “Eastern Capital” so am I to assume Kyoto means “Capital Eastern”? I’m going to make that assumption. At the train station I saw a sign for what appeared to be an amazing exhibition.


I loved the demented bunny (?) hat. I found an even better picture on the internet. Should this artist have a show in New York of his samurai figurines, I will go.


I didn’t spend very much time in Tokyo and someday when I go back to Japan I hope to remedy that. I was on an organized tour for the second half of my trip and we spent another day in Tokyo seeing sights and whatnot, but there’s plenty more I would like to explore. For example, I came across this when I got home:


Yeah, I need to go to that. And I want to stay in a capsule hotel because I like the movie The Fifth Element and I would like to pretend I am Leeloo. Aside from Ghibli, I didn’t go to one museum the entire time I was there. There’s a lot left to do for me.

Before we move on to Kyoto, let’s look at a few more examples of Engrish.

engrish1 engrish2 engrish6 engrish8 engrish9 engrish11 engrish12 engrish14

And a poster I saw. That seems like an unfair fight.


Next entry – Kyoto.

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