The Ueno Zoo is Tokyo’s main zoo, and is somewhat famous for a [beautifully illustrated storybook] about sad times there during World War II. Now the zoo is also famous for its pandas. Hundreds of people line up outside the panda exhibit and are hustled past by staff with megaphones, calling “keep moving, don’t stop, keep moving, don’t stop” constantly. The pandas just sit there looking worried or sad. I wonder how many people are there because they are genuinely interested in learning about pandas, and how many are there because pandas are culturally supposed to be “cute”. : http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0395861373/
Archive for May, 2005
By now you know that I love big residential buildings. In Japan they’re particularly fascinating because so much evidence of the humans inside is visible from the outside. People hang their laundry out to dry and put their futons out in the sunlight, making it somewhat more apparent that people’s _lives_ are going on in there.
All varieties of cute, fluffy pillows can be had in Japan. I’ve got a pink rabbit one, myself; it’s a lovely addition to any sleeping arrangement. [Chris] from IRC wanted a [kappa]-shaped [Marshmallow Pillow], so I got him one gift-wrapped. Now it’s waiting in my apartment until he comes to Seattle to visit. : http://feilkin.kuiki.net : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kappa_(mythical_creature) : http://www.fricca.com
Here’s the view from the apartment where Hiroko and her grandmother live, on the 7th floor of a brand new building of condominiums in Ôimachi. Walking around Shinjuku and Ikebukuro was kind of fun, but I actually found myself wanting it to be over with so that I could meet up with Roko again. Yeah. I was perusing used game and figure shops, visiting the official Sakura Taisen store and cafe, and other geeky stuffs like that, but it just wasn’t… _awesome_. Somehow, sitting in the Italian restaurant with Roko, her younger sister Eiko, and Eiko’s boyfriend, all racking our brains to remember the name of the crispyish carmelly custardy French dessert thing, was much more fun. (It’s crème brûlée, as Roko eventually remembered.)
One day an e-mail arrived from our travel agency. I don’t know how it got past my spam filters, but I’m glad it did; they were advertising unprecedentedly low fares for Golden Week. That’s the first week of May, when lots of people don’t have work or school, and they leave the major cities to visit their rural origins or relax elsewhere. We hadn’t been planning on meeting up in Japan at all, but a US$350 round-trip deal, during a week that Roko would only be working two days, was difficult to refuse. So, I took off to see Japan for the first time in two years, and Miss Hiroko for the first time in three months. On my first full day there, Monday, she did go to work, so I spent the day wandering on my own. Shinjuku, my old home station and favorite town, was my first stop.
During World War II, the USA wanted to make sure Japan wasn’t going to come into Puget Sound and start roughing things up, so they built several outposts around the entrance to the sound. None of them were ever involved in any battles, but it was surreal to see these semi-abandoned gun emplacements and pillboxes and such as we walked around the coast.
The day after STOMP, we went out to some island at the mouth of Puget Sound. Andrew didn’t read the “please stay behind sign” sign and walked right past it. I warned him to stay behind the sign, but then we both realized he _was_ behind the sign.
Andrew invited me to go see the performance group STOMP. I agreed without thinking, then wondered whether I’d made the right choice, then forgot about it for a couple of weeks. The night came; we collected Cheryl and battled traffic all the way to Tacoma. It was my first time in Tacoma; no one seemed to understand when I called it “pleasantly Portland-like” and “Pacific”. The show was very good. We sat in the second row, right in the center. Now I understand why Andrew is such a STOMP fan; the performance is universally entertaining. There are no words in the act, so it can be enjoyed by humans of any age and any background. As I found out later, even Piroko’s mom could dig it. After the show we saw the performers standing around outside the theater, probably wondering the same thing we were: “Isn’t there anything to eat around here?” This photo is from around where we parked the car.