Friday, 27 January 2012

PanJapanter - Episode VI: "Tremblement de terre, tremblements du coeur" (New Year's Day, 2012)

Henry-sama, Jumpei-sama and I slept until around noon, and I had some handheld sushi for lunch. Indeed, New Year’s Day would become a sushi kind of day.
The plan was to go to Odaiba, the reclaimed island in Tokyo bay (you might recall it from the little story I wrote to introduce my account of New Year’s Eve) which houses loads of interesting science and technology stuff, as well as a fake Statue of Liberty.

We got on a train down in Shinagawa. It was my understanding that this was the monorail, but in hindsight Robato-san informs me that, given the multiplicity of rails I must surely have seen, it was just a train that just happened to go quickly, quietly and along a track a hundred feet in the air. Still, it was very fun.
Fun, that is, until we stopped in a station and the train did not stop moving. You may have read that on New Year’s Day there was a large earthquake in out in the Pacific, near Tokyo. I felt it rock this hundred-foot high train for about ten or twelve seconds. Jumpei-sama and Henry-sama didn’t really seem to care but I, not being fond of heights, didn’t have such a good time. I didn’t believe it at first, thinking that somehow the suspension on the train was just having a virtuosic moment, like those suped-up pimp cars that can jump up and down on their front axels, but some of the Japanese people around us looked a bit concerned and you could see buildings and lampposts rocking below. As the shaking subsided, there was silence. Then the driver announced, with the same enthusiasm employed for “the next station is Akasaka, the next station is Akasaka” that there had indeed been an earthquake, but that all was fine and we’d be off in a second.
And off we were. This particular train, monorail or not, has a spectacular route across to the island. It climbs quite steeply in a big spiral suspended in the air, before making its way across the gay-friendly Rainbow Bridge at some speed. I was still tense from the earthquake, but the view afforded of the Tokyo shore certainly was something.
On Odaiba, we had a wander to the fake Statue of Liberty, fittingly smaller than the American one but bigger than the Paris one.
When Hervé-sama and I went to New York, we took with us the unrealised aim of having some pizza; New York City is, of course, “known for its pizza”. Tokyo, the concrete hive that it is, is chock full of ginormous buildings, so Henry-sama and I wanted to go up one. On Odaiba, we blagged our way into the lift of a posh and tall hotel, planning to have a drink in the sky terrace. Unfortunately, scum like us were not allowed in, but we stole a glimpse of the Tokyo panorama on the first day of the year.
All of the cool science stuff was shut (Toyota has a place where they show off their experimental technologies, and there’s a place where you can go and see robots (a Robottery? a Robotanical garden?)) as it was New Year’s Day, so we headed back to the mainland on the same train.

Henry-sama and I wanted to check the possibilities of taking a sleeper train to Osaka instead of the standard futsuu trains. Not keen on fannying around with our Kindle browsers, Jumpei-sama suggested a manga café in the central business district.
Manga, as we all know in the Occident, is a serious business. So serious that you need three forms of ID, a criminal background check and a human sacrifice to “become a member” of one of these places. Nerds and tourists flock there for the comics and a convenient place to watch porn. Businessmen who’ve missed the train and cheapskates flock there for an inexpensive place to get a shower and some shut eye. All of the non-alcoholic drinks are free so I did like a Linden Hall student and loaded up on refined sugar before heading back out into the Tokyo night.

Planning to meet the chans there later on (it was Steph-chan and Eliot-chan’s last night in Tokyo and we had drunkenly / somnolently promised to see them before they left), we went to Ueno, not too far from Jumpei-sama’s place.
Japanese people say that Ueno is a more “local” part of Tokyo, as if the place were teeming with foreigners. It’s certainly a little more down to earth than the rest of the neon-soaked fun. There’s a big park and a zoo and Ueno is home to Tokyo University, the most prestigious in the country. As is our wont, the lads and I went for a skulk around the train tracks and after much frustrating umming, arring and ‘aggling, found a reasonably priced all you can eat sushi restaurant. Breakfast and dinner on the first day of the year: I can’t be doing that much wrong. We had to wait a little, but the restaurant was a cubby hole to delight the hungry, the hearty and the hard-of-spending. Jumpei-sama dealt with the paper work: with a little betting pencil, you write how many thousands of maki or kimchi rolls or wonderful fatty tuna pieces you want, and the ladies of the establishment bring them too you on huge ceramic platters. The green tea, too, is all-you-can-sup.
(Interesting digression: while in England we do tallying as four vertical lines crossed through to make a batch of five, in Japan they use the kanji for “exact” () instead).

Suitably stuffed, we staggered out into the night to meet the chans, bid the travellers be well, and had a civilised few beers at Jumpei-sama’s place.
Two snogs and an earthquake and the year of the dragon was off to a roaring start. 

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