Thursday, May 01, 2008

Traipsing Around Tokyo ...

To say that Michiko is generous is a complete understatement. Like Shel Silverstein's 'Giving Tree,' I am convinced that the woman would give away her limbs if she could. What a host! Joss and I managed to get on three wrong (but labeled otherwise) trains on the way back from Puroland, so we decided to meet Michiko at a Mexican restaurant more nearby our hotel versus heading to her flat to drop off our bags. While I'm thinking about trains, the other funny thing about the Japan rail system is that it is owned by multiple companies. The rail pass, claiming that it works on city transportation, sounds great until you realize that it is only the trains that are owned and operated by a company called "japan rail," which by the looks of it, only has a few, worthless city lines.

I realize that Mexican food has quickly become a recurring theme -- a true testament to the California palate, and what happens when you put two Cali girls on a ship for 4 months and deprive them of anything resembling rice and beans. We've spent (and still spend) hours in the AV Booth talking about burritos, almost to the extent that Charlie talked about peanut butter on "Lost." Of all the places for Michiko to tell us, we were overjoyed to be meeting her and some friends at a Mexican joint. Even if the food did suspiciously taste like seafood. The entire table was soon enamored when Joss and I downed our tequila shots and chased it with lime. The girls giggled, as if we had just undressed ourselves at the dinner table. What else are you supposed to do with a shot glass of tequila. Sip it? Jesus. Someone please explain.

The dinner was really a prelude to a screening of a feature film by a Mexican filmmaker. One of the producers was there, who also works for the media department of the UN. I should get on that. The film, of course, was in spanish with Japanese subtitles, so it was a challenge to my spanish skills to understand the plot. I wouldn't write a paper on it but I could probably traverse a minor pop quiz. Before the film, he showed this incredible, avant-garde video for a project called Latinsizer. Somewhere between "A Clockwork Orange," Dali and the Lumiere Bros, this bizarre video involved their experimental electronica music and a curious visual mix of produce and stereo equipment. I'll try to upload once I'm on land with a real internet signal.

 Michiko set us up in her tatami room ... which is aroom with straw flooring and sleeping mats. She placed herself on her living room couch, then woke up early to cook us a lovely meal of fritatta and salad from complete scratch, including the bread. Ah, the guilt. We had a visit to (what we thought to be) the "World's Largest Ferris Wheel" on our agenda, so Michiko generously and patiently boarded the trains with us en route to an amusement area. The Ferris wheel, though grandeur in size, was best marked by its inclusion of all-glass cages. I suppose you could compare it to a hamster ball, but we felt more like strippers as we were thrust up and into the tokyo skyline in a clear corral -- that was as steamy hot as it was invaded by the Japanese version of Lite FM.

Next to the ferris wheel was this giant arcade, which in Japan means much more than plastic darts and ski-ball. There were all sorts of virtual machines that take you through 3d adventures, and our favorite invention -- the roving panda bears. You straddle these furry beasts, drop a Japanese equivalent of a quarter in (which is comparatively something like $5 USD compared to the yen), and ride around the store. Mine unfortunately stopped in the middle of a three point turn. After passing by the electronic palm reading pagoda, Joss and I then ventured into this extremely odd situation of riding an electric car around a track. It went in and out of buildings, was somehow connected to either Honda or Toyota, and drove itself. We're still not really sure what the deal was, but we went along for the ride anyhow.

Michiko then took us to this park where hundreds of Japanese "rockabillies" meet every weekend to recreate
 the fifties and show their appreciation of Americana. Poodle skirts. Leather jackets a la T-Bird style and hair gelled so high it should involve a permit. The park was also littered with kids dressed as animae characters. So weird! A nearby toy store, that was 5 stories tall and had everything from Care Bears to wacko knick-knacks of the Japanese kind, was a prelude to our glamorous lunch at Shakey's pizza. I know, I know, I don't even go there in LA, but we were starving and they had a pizza buffet. Many of them involved unidentifiable seafood toppings, but the desert pizza with bananas and chocolate was something to write home about.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Oohh...Japanese carnies! Were they as awesome as the Irish carnies that we encountered in Kilarney? Maybe we can take some time to photograph the carnies of the world. Could we get a grant to cover this 'research'? I smell a new project!