Living as I do out in the suburbs, beyond even the reach of the blessed Chūō Rapid Line, the opportunity of joining an Bradley at the end of his stay in Japan and, as he so poetically put it, have “the tourist guide the literate” was one that, to my as-yet not completely thawed mind (more on that later), was to be seized with both slightly frost-bitten hands.
Such enthusiasm was not abundantly evident in our first meeting. I personally blame my housemates for apparently deciding that sleep is the crutch of the weak at heart. Nevertheless, it was two hours late that I arrived, sheepishly, in Akihabara. This district is home to the enormous monolith that is Yodobashi Camera, of Harrods size but full of electronics. The clientele in certain smaller shops can get more classically otaku, to the point where one feels they might need a shower after viewing some of the items on sale. Culutral differences, we explain to ourselves.
Paul, a friend of Bradley’s, joined us in Ueno for the classic ‘let’s feed cake to the sparrows‘ tour which has become a mainstay of my wanders. It seems that they have come to associate humanity’s presence with the promise of sacchariferous sustenance, even in such foul weather. This has already been the subject of a post, but allow me once again iterate the entertainment that can be gleaned from buying a slightly expensive piece of cake and having half the avian class fight in mid-air for the honour of taking it from you. Even Paul was impressed.
So it was that, after much meandering and a worryingly long time spent in a department store in Tokyo Station and an ‘English pub’ in Ueno, we found ourselves battling with mother nature to reach the equally legendary Kura Sushi. In addition to the usual carousel of delicacies, there is an iPad ordering system, which operates on a separate belt above. Those who survive the experience are known to suddenly twitch and salivate at the sound of the doorbell which is herald to such orders. We left pleasantly
full, and my personal collection of mini sushi phone charms grew by a respectable one at the hands of a game of chance which runs after every fifth plate.
We ended Valentines’ Day gasping for breath at the entrance to Shibuya Station, part way through the process of very effectively camouflaging ourselves with snow. In Japan this is marked by women giving chocolate to men, who have a whole month to steel themselves before they reciprocate on White Day. I can only assume mine are in the post.
This time the delay came from the snow, which seems determined to match the severity which is (apparently) expressed in the British media. Now that we’re on Snowstorm II, Nature seems to have adjusted her tactics in order to cause maximum inconvenience. Gone is the chilled marshmallow of a few days ago, and replaced with puddles and grey sludge. One must be exceedingly careful and cannot afford to rush anywhere. The latter was expressed wholeheartedly by the trains (even the venerated JR Line), as evidenced by their great reluctance to take me back to Kōenji at the end of the day.
Despite the weather, our choice of breakfast was all but decided for us as we happened to walk past a café. While Paul remained sensible, it quickly became apparent that, between myself and Bradley at least, brunch (as it turned out to be) was a test of moral fibre and honour. Behold my entry.
This monolith of sugared delights (at first) surpassed Bradley’s in bulk, even if his did reach such as height as to remove the necessity of cutlery or even leaning down to take the first bite. The challenge was great, but in the end both of us succeeded.
When we are younger, we believe that one of the greatest advantages of adulthood lies in the ability to make our own decisions. It is only later that we realise that decisions are comprised predominantly of mistakes. I can confidently say that, as adults, we made tho particular decision and paid the price in stomachache.
We were nearing the end of our meeting, and headed to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building for a view of the city, Mt. Fuji and (principally) because it required no walking whilst exposed to the elements. One of the underpass is a favourite spot for the homeless, who seem untroubled by the authorities as long as they are quiet and tidy. I have resolved to return when I look less like a tourist and more like a serious (and more low-profile) photographer.
Thus my first meeting with extra-Japanese agents was concluded, and I left with nothing but a half bottle of vodka and memories of a not-so-distant chill to work my way round the Journey of a Thousand Detours back home.