Happy New Year!
So many days to catch up on, so here goes:
Now, it's just gone 1am and I'm listening to The Pogues and heading for what may actually be my earliest night in, er, well, can't actually remember that! I've EVEN got some washing doing it's thing. Truth is, I've hardly seen this place in the last few days. Unless walking in, crashing out, getting up, going out counts. It doesn't though, does it? Apologies AGAIN if I owe you emails, I'm being crap.
Ooo, as a sideline to the catchup and all things Japanese, I'm a ruler now. I have my own nation: http://www.nationstates.net/ and I quite like being in charge. I'm sure I'll get bored of it soon, but for now it's good. You create your own nation and decide what laws to pass or inflict on your citizens. Every resolution you pass changes your nations profile a little bit.
But, let's get back to Wednesday. As I said, it had snowed during the night and was bloody cold and still snowing all day. Didn't stop the running around though. And photos ARE getting more imminent. They have to. I've a pile of films now to develop. Gonna cost a fortune. I really must get a digital camera. Soooo, we headed off to an area called Asakusa (pronounced 'Asaksa' for anyone who cares about that kind of thing) which has another massive shrine and was heaving with people after their new year blessings. I got my fortune and it's gonna be good for the year, apparantly. The temple, Senso-ji was another massive one, though the canvas covering the bits being cleaned did take away from the whole effect just a tad. Off to the side was a pagoda, but we didn't wander over to it. And on the long wander up to it was a heap of stalls selling tourist tat, memorabilia and religious er, things. There were far too many foreigners though... Don't they have anything better to do? We trotted off to an Izakaya after that.
I can't remember if I've ever mentioned Izakaya's before, but they are, I suppose, the Japanese equivalent of a pub. Not to say there isn't an abundance of British and Irish pubs here to choose from...
Izakaya's tend to be quite large and you can have a relative amount of privacy, whilst being served. If you're lucky the menu will have pictures or, if you're really lucky it'll have some English on there. Actually, most of them do, or otherwise you just get Japanese friends to order! You order drinks and several dishes to share. Normally larger than tapas sized, but depends. There's also a dish called 'Nabe' which you cook at your table. It's a kind of stew, I suppose in as much as there's a broth base and you let the veggies, meat, fish, tofu or whatever simmer away until it's done. Sooo nice. And really cheap.
I'm going through a Cassis Soda phase at the moment. Soooo nice. (It's a blackcurrant liquor that's extremely popular here). Also, sake, shochu, vodka, beer..... Shit, I need to detox...
Apart from the menus that have pictures (a LOT of them) or English, the other option is you can point to the amazing plastic replicas of the meals that are in the restaurant windows, though I haven't needed to do that just yet.
Thursday, I met up with a Japanese ex-flatmate from Brighton days who I haven't seen for two years and had a lovely lovely very amusing day in Yokohama (one of the Tokyo suburbs). The weather was bright and dry and the sun was out. It was still chilly but warmer than Wednesday. More a mid autumn than deep winter day.
We had a long wander around China Town which is, I'm sure I've heard this but can't be bothered to verify it (!), the largest China Town outside of Hong Kong and had wonderful Gyoza in a tiny restaurant in one of the side streets before looking around the shops at a range of kawaii and not so kawaii (kawaii kunai) things and giggling a lot, though not as much as we did later on. Saw lots of things in one shop that were 'off' according to the shelf labelling. It took a couple of minutes to figure out it meant 'sale' (or the equivalent of '50% off' or whatever!)
Had a wander down to the harbour where there were swarms of rather small seagulls. Well, compared to Brighton they were small.
We passed an amusement area and whilst some of the rollarcoasters weren't running, some of the water ones were. Now, I'm sorry but whilst in the middle of summer I'd be quite happy to go roaring down a water ride and getting soaked, in the middle of an icy day? Crazy people. Didn't see if they were Gaijin or Japanese. I imagine both.
Then we hit the malls. Now this is where the digital camera I don't yet have would have come in handy, though I did take some bad pictures on my phone as a reminder... Anyway, I'm rambling.
It's the Chinese year of the Rooster coming up, so not surprisingly there are roosters and rooster things all over the place, but not so much as in Yokohama (that I've noticed yet anyway) were there were scary giant rooster inflatables hanging from the mall ceilings and all sorts.
The scariest thing I saw though, and which I'm just getting over the trauma of is a Winnie The Pooh, dressed in a non-removable rooster outfit, complete with rooster tail (though the head could be slipped back and forward). And, as someone 'kindly' pointed out to us (and I'm shuddering as I type this). If you, er, slip your fingers inside Winnie (I feel dirty typing this) and have a good grope around you can pull out an egg.
Winnie The Pooh is male.
Roosters are male.
This is so, so, so, so WRONG.
I was also rather upset by Disney's having produced ice blue and white Winnie The Pooh's, Tigger's and Piglet's. They looked like someone had set Photoshop on them. I mean, if you're winter themeing well known characters, bung them in ski jackets or give them hats and scarves... but please leave their fur alone. It's not right!
Also saw some hair bands with the brand name 'Ouchless'. (Any non-native English readers, 'ouch' is the noise you make in English if, for example, someone pulls your hair...). I take this as another Japanese love of English and desire to use it in anyway possible. I found it funny anyway.
There was also aromatherapy sprays for dogs coats to make them smell better. (A bath not good enough?)
Pet pillows. Come on now, does your dog really need it's head raised on a pillow? I'm not talking about a pillow for your dog to lie on. It's just for it's head.
And, talking of dogs, you know those buff puff things, or whatever they're called (the net things you use in the shower that when you put shower gel on them get all sudsy) well, I don't see anything wrong with the basic design. Here though someone decided to throw a dog through the middle of it. Think chihuahua in a tutu. Creepy. Not as bad as Winnie The Cockeral though.
There were clocks that would give me nightmares, let alone the average child; a monkey that vibrated at a great velocity while 'oo oo aa aa' -ing VERY loudly. Other toys that snored while their chests raised up and down. And so so much more.
We also saw these little jars that had lots of water and stones in them. I thought 'snow globe' (well, actually I thought 'snow thing' as I couldn't remember the name of that either, but those things you shake and watch the 'snow' fall back down) and we both stood shaking vigourously before putting them down disappointedly, as nothing had happened. That was when we noticed they each contained four or so little fish. Oops. Bet that traumatised them. Bet we weren't the first to do that either.
They had some toilet cubicles in Yokohama mall that had two toilets in them. A big one and a little one. Very sweet! They also had chairs for babies in a lot of the toilets cubicles, which is something I've not seen before. Makes so much sense. Wonder why more loos don't have them?
Anyway, got home pretty late and into bed even later. Yet again. And so onto New Years Eve.
Having got into bed around 4am, I got up pretty late, and as it had snowed again during the night, couldn't be bothered to do anything during the day. Headed off to an Izakaya for about three hours before trotting off to the Meiji Shrine (the biggie). Managed to get to the station for the shrine at about quarter to midnight (Normally it's about 10-15 mins from the station to the actual shrine) but we had no booze with us. Went running round trying to find a convenience store that had some and all beered up went to head off. Third friend had disappeared so, whilst waiting for reappearance, we started talking to random Japanese girl who was waiting for her friend. I suggested she joined us and not worry about her friend and she agreed (the friend caught us up eventually) and we trotted off. Typically (maybe) for Japan, the police were happy for us to go trotting into the shrine area drinking from beer cans but didn't allow cigarettes in. It took an age to get to the Shrine, but we didn't care. We were having such a giggle and the whole atmosphere waiting and shuffling forward with THOUSANDS of other people was awesome. And the police had it so well organised. But then this wasn't the train, so it's not really surprising people were being polite about the whole thing. And luckily there were lots of loos - well, at least one that I went back to a couple of times, en route.
We got to the Shrine, did the shriney thing and then headed for more food and drink - they had a LOT of both on site and a huge inside area to hover and consume and talk. Which we did. Until 7 in the morning. They also had an amusing gift shop with lots of kawaii and kawaii kunai things in it. The Japanese girls stayed with us throughout and we taught them some naughty slang sentences which they seemed to love. Along the lines of: 'Shut up you f....ing p...head, you're talking complete b...cks'. And that kind of thing. Well, why not? lol!
Staggered home and crashed about 8.30ish.
Got up around 16:45ish New Years Day and refused to even contemplate leaving the apartment. Naturally, this meant I didn't go to bed until gone 5 in the morning!
Where are we? Oh, Sunday. Well, it being that Emperor San was going to going out onto the balcony of the Imperial Palace, which he only does twice a year, and which means the public gets access to otherwise shut areas, it would have been rude not to have also gone up there. So, we trundled up (another warm and sunny day) and joined the 1000's of others gripping our free paper Japanese flags and waving them furiously when he appeared. Hey, you have to go with the flow, don't you. And again, typically, the crowd was organised, calm and polite. Gotta love this place!
Wandered through the gardens to go to the very controversial Yasukuni-jinja (shrine) which is dedicated to the war dead, except a load of war criminals are enshrined there too. There was a performing monkey there which upset me more though :(
The Shrine was nice, but we didn't throw money or offer a prayer at this one.
Oh and they had tons of lovely food just before the Shrine too, and lots of people. It was a nice ambling kind of day. We picked up fortunes for the year according to our birthdays (the previous one was more 'random' - you have a load of sticks in a shaker and shake one out. Whatever that says, is the fortune you then have to pick from a drawer. If it's bad, you're meant to tie it to a tree or rail). Anyway, I got a translation of mine and it's looking pretty good to me!
After that had a wander over to Ginza which is known for it's shops and had a wander around the Sony building, which has lots of gadgets and games. Though I couldn't figure out how any of the games worked.
Knackered, we ended up in an Izakaya.
Today then: I met up with some student and had a giggly lunch and wander round shops.
Amongst todays delights were a very scarey (to me) Kittypan toy, that's half Hello Kitty and half panda and looks like something from a monster movie. There was also a kimono'd kitty and some very cute but BLOODY LOUD alarms that I think you're meant to use to protect your bag or something. Anyway, I only realised this once I'd pulled out the pin and we nearly got deafened. Other people started pulling pins out of others so we tried them all. After we wandered away an assistant came and removed all the open alarms. oops!!
Then we stumbled on the designer dog clothes section, complete with fur collars on coats and shiny jewellery attached. A few people had taken their dogs in and were holding the clothes up to try them for size. One bemused chihuahua sat there not moving (yes, it WAS real) whilst a jumper was thrust over it's head and it's legs were yanked through the leg holes.
I then got told off for taking a picture of scarey doll-bear thing. It was another mutant toy basically: one of the old-fashioned teddy bears in body with a dolls face coming out it's head, but still with teddy ears and teddy back of head. I'm not sure why they didn't like me taking a pic of it. Maybe they thought I'd go away and copy it or something. Er, I DON'T think so!
It's now 4am, so looks like I'm not crashing any earlier than normal. Damned body clock. What's going on.
Oh and, for someone who never saw the point of legwarmers, today I bought my third pair. Oh and a third pair of fleecy sockets too. And some 'house socks'. Well, hey, Japanese apartments are bloody cold :D