Undeterred, I walked to the next station along, the famous Harajuku. Perambulating down the street of most note, Takeshita (hee hee), and then down Harajuku Street, I again encountered anticlimax. For you see, the reason for Harajuku’s fame is the Harajuku girls’ fashion: gothic or bo-peep ‘lolita’, or a blend thereof. But, the main day to see this is Sunday, and on this Monday they seemed to have gone to their schools or universities or jobs. Though there is some doubt they have them.
Thus, I headed to the other side of the tracks and meandered for several hours around the very pleasant Meiji Shinto Shrine, with its sprawling grounds and gardens, and sacred spring you dip a piece of water in. The souls of the deities Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken are supposed reside here. Emperor Meiji is of note as he ‘opened up Japan to the West’ after its period of isolation, which is the revisionist way of saying he was the next incumbent Emperor after the clearly non-Imperial United States sent warships in to force trade at gunpoint in 1854. While clear to all that I did not have enough time in Tokyo to understand the cultural and religious practices I saw, I did appreciate this method of control in Shinto, as Machiavellian as anything in Abrahamic religions: if the Emperor becomes a god after death, do you dare defy him in life?
And interesting aside that goes nowhere: the hit film of the moment in Japan is “My Darling is a Foreigner”, whose poster has a Japanese girl gazing dreamily across the table at a fairly average looking Caucasian. In the hyper-race-sensitive West, would this fly? I would think not, although John Safran’s latest series gives me pause.
This brings me almost to the end of my Japanese adventures. If the writing seems disjointed and random, it then reflects the experiences. This I think is a country where one must live to truly understand, much as Mexico has turned out to be.
As an epilogue, when I was in Australia someone asked why, given the opportunity, I didn’t use the Japanese bidet. I used an Italian one once, which was basically just a cold water tap pointed horizontally, and I didn’t find it to my liking. But, the Japanese ones are heated, and being that I am writing this from Narita airport on my way back to North America, I took the chance to avail myself of this technology. Were anyone within hearing distance, they would have heard a nervous giggle as the water did its thing; three words describe it: warm, yes, but also accurate (scarily) and pressurised. Almost like a liquid probing finger. I did not find this bidet to my liking either.
With an 8 hour lay-over at Narita, I also got to try out something that has had me captivated for years. When I was a kid, Father told me about airports in Japan that had tiny little rooms for people to rent out and sleep in, wide enough only for a bed and a bureau, and packed tightly together. To my child’s mind, these would be about 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet, and stack like school lockers or honeycomb, and have little doors and ladders going up to them.
In actuality, they are more like 10 feet by 6 feet wide by 7 feet high, and like a normal room, not a spaceship escape pod. Despite my vision being more awesome, the reality is very good too. Bed, shower, hair dryer, air conditioning, alarm clock, wake-up call, and various soaps and combs and whatnot. And this is nirvana after 15+ hours in transit. After showering, I lay on the bed and thought “These things are great. They should have them….”
And an hour later, a snapped awake from the deepest, most restful sleep in memory, like my consciousness burst through the surface of an abyss, and then I floated back and forth to this deep sleep for three more hours. Finding yourself laid out horizontally in a bed in a quite room in an airport. A fine use of Y2500.