Yes, it's a lame title, but better than, say, "Toky-no? Toky-yes!" which was, I am sad to say, briefly considered for use. Seriously. Anyway, Tokyo, I am--conversely--happy to say, was a very cool place, despite the fact that it was not quite as futuristic as I had hoped. I mean, sure, there were lots of fancy vending machines, but I was expecting robots and hover cars. Sadly, neither were anywhere to be found. I was also disappointed by the toilets, because if there was one thing I knew--or thought I knew--about Tokyo, the toilets are fancy. Okay, the toilet in our hotel room did have four different buttons on it (in addition to the handle) that did all sorts of stuff, but I was hoping for a robot arm or something to give me toilet paper. Oh well--maybe I just wasn't in the right places.
Robot toilet paper arms aside, Tokyo is big. Really big. Really, really big. I cannot, as you may now be suspecting, emphasize enough how big it was. But it's a strange sort of big, not like US cities. From what I could gather, for a long time they didn't want to build up too high because of earthquake danger. So while there are sections of the city with big 50- or 60-story buildings, most of the buildings are only 10 or 15 stories tall and are built so close together that you literally could not squeeze between them. (No, that's not--for once--an exaggeration.) So when we looked out our hotel room window--we were lucky enough to be on the 39th floor--we saw tens of thousands of relatively squat looking buildings, built right on top of each other, as far as we could see in every direction. The city doesn't seem to end, it just sort of disappears into the distance. Probably because the city doesn't end and does, in fact, just sort of disappear into the distance as your line of sight fails, but that sounds less poetic.
Anyway, we had a lot of fun doing all sorts of Tokyo stuff: We went to Shibuya, which is the place the "stock" pictures you see of Tokyo with the massive TV screens on the sides of buildings come from; we browsed around in Ginza, Tokyo's high-end shopping district; we ate conveyer belt sushi and enjoyed it quite a bit; we figured out, for the most part, how to use the incomprehensibly massive Tokyo subway system; we went to the Park Hyatt bar (the hotel from Lost in Translation), had drinks, and made lots of "For relaxing times, make it ... Suntory times" jokes; went to Harajuku and looked at all the freaky kids dressed up as their favorite anime characters (more on that later); had soba noodles made by a little granny at the Meiji Shrine to the Meiji Emporer and Empress (they were the ones who "opened" Japan to the outside world); bought--and ate--funny little Japanese animal crackers made out of some sort of sesame-type stuff on Nakimese Dori, the pedestrian road filled with shops that leads to the Sensoji Temple, Tokyo's biggest tourist attraction; and generally wandered around the city commenting that it was, in general, much cleaner and more organized than Beijing.
Yet still, the little store in our hotel didn't have deodorant. What's the deal with that?Harajuku Kids!
As I mentioned up above, we spent one morning in Harajuku, which is the area where kids come from all over Tokyo to dress up in strange costumes and, well, just sort of sit there and take pictures of each other while tourists take pictures of them. Very pomo, but whatever. Either way, Holly had to tear me away. It was just so unspeakable strange that I just stood there, transfixed, taking more and more pictures, because I didn't know what else to do. Although I did keep saying things like, Why are they dressed like that? What is that? Are they having fun? Sadly, I never got answers to any of these questions. Oh well. (Although Gwen Stefani seems to be just as entranced by it. Her latest album has a song called Harajuku Girls.)
I think we got there a little early so there weren't that many people out yet, but there were still quite a few interesting folks around. We also didn't see any of the more "interesting" costumes, unfortunately: for example, apparently "naughty French maid" was a popular costume recently. Of course, we are talking about 14-year old naughty French maids, so maybe it's just as well that they were nowhere to be seen. Whatever.
In any case, here are some of the more interesting pictures ...
I guess she's a cat?
I have no idea whatsoever.
Okay, the one one the left has to be a princess. As for the one on the right--in the costume that looks like some mad scientist crossbred a unicorn with a monchichi--I, again, have no clue. I suppose if I was a Japanese teeneager I probably would, but from my experieince--no one was dressed in anything to do with Robotech or Starblazers--I was a bit out of my depth:
The monchichi-unicorn with the king! Or something.
"Hey, look at this picture of you! You look so horny!" (High-pitched giggles.)
Charlie's Angels, Tokyo-style.
Besides the animal people, there are "cool" punk rock kids there, too. You know, like these people. Because nothing is more punk-rock than A Nightmare Before Christmas. (That's what the skull t-shirt the girl on the right has on is from.) I mean, really, most animated musicals are punk rock, in my experience.
Is it strange that after a while I thought of these two girls as the "normal ones"?
Say it with me: no idea.
One of the rejects from Sergeant Pepper's band. She's pissed about it, as you can see.
This guy so wants to be an anime character it was almost sad. Well, it is sad in lots of other ways, but you know what I mean.
NOTE: This post has been edited after the fact to be nicer. Because I am all about peace, love, and understanding. I've heard there may or may not be something funny about peace, love, and understanding, but I can't remember where right now. Must be the old age. blank