Monday, January 31, 2011

japan tale from the deep past

Found this on a floppy disk in my desk drawer and it brought back vivid memories.

Japan 1995:

Went to Tokyo. Found the hotel. Fell asleep. Woke up Tuesday morning and walked around the 400-year old garden on the grounds of the hotel. Observed the giant mega-carp swimming in the ponds -- these carp were big enough to eat Cleveland if not Tokyo.

The cherry blossoms fell and the government fell. Very symbolic. It was very windy and cherry blossoms were swirling around like snow. A blizzard of blossoms.

Worked hard. Survived traditional Japanese business dinner.  Ate unusual foods such as baby octopus (not the same as squid). Liked almost everything.

Day off. Walked around the Imperial Palace. Checked out the gardens. Observed joggers ALL go counterclockwise around the palace. There were no nonconformists on this. All joggers stretch in this ancient little courtyard under one of the historic gates. Hordes of people having their picture taken in front of famous bridge. Me too. Many bridges. Also swans in the moat. Amusing that the swans live in the outer moat and do not go to the inner moat, which is named the Swan Moat even though there are no swans in it.

Went shopping in the Ginza district. Couldn't afford anything. Ate dinner at a little hole in the wall restaurant where we were the only foreigners. Good food (found some vegetarian stuff on the menu and liked it). Walked through back alleys full of tiny yakitori joints full of the locals sitting on milk crates eating their yakitori with clouds of smoke curling around them. It looked like something out of a James Bond movie.

Friday morning before departure I set out to visit the Hie Jin shrine near the hotel. I got lost in the back alleys and stumbled into a crowd of tv news crews, hordes of police, etc. waiting outside one of the government buildings for some big official or other. It looked major, whatever it was. Eventually found the shrine and felt like I had stepped back in time 400 years. It was peaceful and serene with live chickens wandering about the courtyard. There was a Shinto wedding just starting. The bride looked lovely in traditional dress. Her kimono must have cost a fortune! I watched the wedding from a discreet distance and even photographed the wedding party (also from a discreet distance). When they went inside for the reception or whatever, I went into the shrine itself and and made an offering (one yen -- someone previous to me had made an offering of a can of Blendy--this awful iced coffee that comes in cans in vending machines on every street corner). I rang the bell and asked the oracle for my fortune. The wedding party came back so I removed myself to a discreet distance and watched them in procession to the sound of the traditional taiko drum. I imagine they could hear that drum several blocks away at the National Diet building where the government was in turmoil.

I walked back to the hotel. Public works crews were everywhere in their blue jumpsuits sweeping up the fallen cherry blossoms with their traditional twig brooms.

Oh, the oracle's answer to me: "You will be happy with her."

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