What is it that has resulted in so many Japanese having bad teeth? I noticed something similar in Thailand too and, there, it’s not uncommon for grownups to have braces. A boy at the internet cafe had such bad teeth, like a series of glass shards you sometimes see on top of a brick fence, my eyes couldn’t help but continuously linger down to his mouth every time he talked. Well, on my first visit anyway.
Thailand might be the country of the edible calves, Japan seems to be the land of edible legs. And chicks with rather hot bodies, dressed up in knee stockings, high heels and tight tops.
Like, imagine a juicy chicken drumstik, fresh of the grill. When you see one, you’d have the urge to bite into it, just to have your incissors brake the skin and get to the tender meat underneath, whiping your lips off the fat afterwards. Japan’s chicks’ edible legs are a bit like that.
Though many places, noodle bars and some museums being a few, have done away with cashiers altogether, having them replaced with machines, I presume to save space and costs, at the same time, many elevators, in warehouses and skyscrapers, are manned by girls in cute outfits. What’s more, they don’t just stand by idly, pushing the buttons for you, they have whole tales to tell and do funny moves.
Turns out the Bandai headquarters is just around the corner from my hotel in Asakusa. Big Doraemon and others puppets stand in front of the building.
I was on my way to cross the Sumida river to Sumida-ku, where the Great Kanto Earthquake Memorial Museum remembers the devastating 1923 earthquake which destroyed 70% of the city and killed more than 50.000 people. The museum, sharing a park with several war-related memorials, is a bit ‘old’.
Close to the museum is the Ryogoku Kokugikan, a large sumo stadium, and, a little bit further, the Tomioka Hachiman shrine, popular with sumo wrestlers. The shrine also holds two portable shrines, mikoshi, which can be carted off for events. Both are gold plated and encrusted with diamonds and rubies.
The important Fukugawa Fudo temple is nearby. On its second floor, a gallery depicting 88 temples on a 1400km pilgrimage route on the island of Shikoku. It’s said that offering a prayer at each alcove has the same effect as visiting each temple. I’m sure that with prayers also come some cash incentives.
Also in the same museum is the Basho museum. Matsuo Basho popularised the haiku in the late 1600s. According to a flyer available at the museum, the rules of the haiku…
1. Keep the 5-7-5 form. That is, 17 syllables in three lines.
2. Include a season word. The only explanation given is that a season word is “a word established to convey the feeling of the four seasons”.
3. Potentially use a breaking word. This seems to be a Japanese linguistic thing and can’t then apply to haikus in other languages.
Here’s my attempt at a haiku:
My computer screen
Tapping away on my skype
The rain on my window
In the same area, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, MOT for short, had a reasonable exhibition called ‘Parallel Worlds’, highlighting French and Japanese surrealist art where the most interesting artist on show was the video artist Daniel Guyonnet.
Close to the Fukugawa Fudo temple, I had what looked like a sugary bun, but what turned out to be pure sugar, like ossified cotton candy, in the shape of a bun. The man selling them had a small fire going on which he would put a small saucepan with what looked like syrup. The syrup would start to boil, after which he’d put in a tiny sliver of something powdery in the boiling mix, stirring it around constantly, but having taken the saucepan off the fire.
Within a few seconds, the mix would become cloudy and, several seconds later, the cloudy mix hardened, quickly resulting in the hard bun-shaped extremely sweet but lightweight candy he was selling.
Next, I went to the other side of town, to Shibuya, known for the huge pedestrian crossing I’m sure you’ve seen on TV once or twice, or thrice.
The crossing, just outside Shibuya station, is close to a statue of a dog, Hachiko, who, in the 1920s, came to the station every day, for years, to welcome its owner, not knowing the owner had died on the job.
Shibuya is also known for its concentration of love hotels, short term hotels where couples with little privacy can rent themed rooms for 30 dollars for two hours.
In Shibuya, I also came across my first smoking bars, empty stores where you can smoke. The one I found in Shibuya was sponsored by Mild Seven. The place had a few internet terminals and a bunch of listening stations, where you could enjoy 10 or so new CDs. A few drinks machines, free drinks, were standing in the corner.
Later, in Akihabara, I found one with a cigarette shop inside and a girl at the entrance, handing out free cigarettes.
At Shibuya 109, a lifestyle mall for Tokyo’s girl teenagers, I learned the relevance of “Japanese Schoolgirl Watch”. Wired magazine has been carrying a regular column called “Japanese Schoolgirl Watch” for years, the reasoning being that what’s hot with Japanese schoolgirls now is set to be hot in the rest of the developed world a few months, or years, down the line. At Shibuya 109, I fully understood the relevance of this.
On the steps of the mall, lingerie producer Peach John was pushing its new lines with a model or artist called ‘Kelly’.