Going into Golden Week, a string of public holidays that, along with New Year, is the only real break a lot of Japanese people get, I was sweaty and exhausted, coming back from a long day of working in several different locations and spending a total of probably three hours commuting between them. But then came the announcement that the only line that goes to either of our local stations was suspended. Uggghhh.
I tried to pretend it wasn't true, but the huge amount of pedestrian congestion around a screen announcing it at the Seibu East Exit of Ikebukuro confirmed that everything was still down, and I trudged back to the train from whence I came (and that I should have just stayed on, because the chances that operation would have resumed in fifteen or so minutes was minuscule) to go to the third station technically accessible to/from our place.
Here's something I wrote about that obscenely long commute home once I got there:
Coming up on a year and a half of being an audacious disconnected troglodyte who goes outside with no Internet, messaging or maps, and usually no phone.
I think it's safe to say you've made it in Tokyo and become some minute part of the ultrafine mist-rain swirling around the greater, archetypal Murakami narrative when you've spent your 12-hour day using a half dozen different train stations, the last of which you haven't in almost a year and were forced to because your line was suspended, likely due to a jumper who's been reduced to an ambiguous line of text on a screen.
Today you've made it not because you weren't the jumper, but because it's a solid 25-minute walk through silent, labyrinthine neighbourhoods peppered with night blooming jasmine to get home, but you know it by heart.
No maps, no sounds.
Kotakecho after dark.
The next day it was time to wake up, grab a brush, put on a little makeup, and head out to the first day of Kappunk, a three-day punk festival of ongoing concerts at four venues in Shinjuku. People fly in for it. It's expensive, and kind of a big deal.
It's funny to think that we had noticed these stenciled tags
the very first time we went and walked around in central Shinjuku
a little over a year before, wondering what they referred to.
This is ACB, the first and largest venue we stopped at.
As you can see on the oversized version of the flyer there, the other three venues were Urga, Loft, and Earthdom (our personal favourite and easily the least douchey, in Koreatown of course).
lol we don't care what it's for, just look at it
The Erections drew a predictably huge and diverse crowd that included a surprising number of middle-aged holidaying Aussies and punks from all over Japan.
We were pretty excited to see Find the Spot, too, over from Korea for the event.
They're a D-beat crust band and played the last show we went to in Korea before
heading to Germany. What a great time to have been there; it's way different and
not nearly as good now.
We'd never been to Urga, halfway between ACB and Earthdom, but man,
at least on that day, they were making their cocktails really fucking strong.
Always glad to see new female-fronted bands, but we weren't crazy about
Wolfgang Japan Tour here, to put it politely.
We eventually moved on to Earthdom, where we saw a hardcore band called Numb and
a couple of others I don't remember because we had been drinking all day at this point.
As I said when I posted a few of these, the number and quality of the photos
tend to diminish when your gin and tonics get into the double digits lol
All in all it was a good time and pretty much worth the price; almost everyone we'd ever run into at shows in Tokyo was out, there were special deals on drinks, and Kabukicho looked like the epicenter of a subculture that was actually thriving as opposed to one sequestered to small venues at which people are constantly shushed and asked not to stand outside talking.
Obviously there was a hangover day next, but then, the day after that, we went out to run a few more-pleasant-than-usual errands. I was still putting together a gift box for my cousin, his wife, and their new baby girl at this point, and it was taking forever because I kept getting another new idea and another and another for something else to include. The centerpiece of the gift box, I decided, was to be a traditional handcrafted wooden baby toy, so we went to a nice shop I found called Bingoya to see what they had.
Kokeshi dolls, check
Temari balls, check
These are the ones I settled for - a hanging octopus with springy bell tentacles
and a rolling wooden daruma guy :D
After playing with most of the neat traditional toys we went over to Akiba to browse unmentionables in a multi-story adult department store and check out the Book Off, which usually has a good foreign selection. Weirdly enough, I found a couple of interesting German books but nothing good in English.
We thought about trying to see a movie, but in Tokyo, that's completely impossible on a weekend without making online reservations (possibly days) in advance, especially when it comes to American blockbusters that often don't come out here until about 8 months later than in the rest of the world. But that's what Netflix is for.
Instead, we finally tried the Ain Soph Soar branch in Ikebukuro, which had been weirdly closed for a special event of some kind the first time we'd tried to stop in.
They do vegetarian and vegan food in a chic, whitewashed, not-so-casual atmosphere that's really nice and perfect for dates.
Blue mojito, not bad. Not worth like 8 bucks for a drink whose volume
is the equivalent of three sips, but still nice.
I forget what this tofu omelette appetizer was called, but it was good.
They could have tried a little harder with the sauce (ketchup), though.
Veggie "paella" with soy chicken, our entree. 10/10 would recommend.
I have a collection of pictures of Hannes staring longingly at food that I've insisted on
taking a picture of first, so here's this one lol
Our respective desserts: a vegan brownie with whipped cream and a tiny scoop of nutty ice cream and Earl Grey creme brulee, both extremely delicious.
So that was Sunday, and this particular Golden Week was kind of ridiculous and stupid because of how the holidays fell; we had the Friday before off, for Kappunk, but the following Monday and Friday weren't holidays.
A week with two sandwich days.
Who does that.
Anyway, on Tuesday we went to hike Mt. Takao with Jharrod!
I shall add you to my collection, my pretty
It was absurdly crowded, with the entire slightly-lesser-known trail Jharrod chose for us being packed with people for its entire length, all the way to the top, but we had a good time.
(In case you weren't sure)
As Leif commented, ah, here's Old Dicknose!
Seems wildly inappropriate to Western eyes, sure, but this guy is a Tengu, a lengendary demon-like creature adopted into Japanese folklore from Buddhist mythology. It was supposed to be some kind of Chinese-style dog, but was often depicted as a bird of prey with a long beak, and then humanised into this long-nosed abomination. Sounds ridiculous and convoluted, I know, but over hundreds of years and taking into account how the Japanese tried to fit these things into their native Shinto religion, I'm sure its evolution kind of makes sense (-shakes head emphatically-).
It was a Disneyland level of crowded at the top, but these two really were enjoying themselves.
See? Tengu. This mountain shrine is dedicated to them. They were originally warlike and terrible but over time came to be regarded as protective creatures that I guess are still dangerous if you try to make any cracks about their schlong faces
All your pennies are belong to us!
Hey, Hannes! -THWAP-
Another view from the top as we were about to head down, looking in a different direction
These Japanese irises blanketed the entire mountain, it was really lovely
We didn't see any giant flying squirrels (what this poor roadkill postcard is supposed to be lol), monkeys, or bears, because yes, those things still roam wild in the more isolated parts of Tokyo prefecture, but that's okay.
Hrrrnnngg! Dickface power pose!
I see you up there, little dude!
I love how these goma dango (sesame seed rice cake) sticks were being roasted and displayed like some kind of prehistoric Flintstones pterodactyl eggs
Everyone look incredulous and disgusted!
Hannes saw the cucumbers being kept in vats of cold water and was like, "What is this, just a cucumber. Just a whole fucking cucumber. That's my favourite."
I was like, no, not at all. You also put miso paste on it. -w-
Hey, there are slaps up here!
On the way down I spotted this guy with his snoozy ferret and just walked straight up to him and took a picture without saying anything or being able to stop myself.
This ended up being only our first Golden Week Ferret, too, if you'll believe it
Love these irises, they're so exotic looking
Pretty picturesque even with way too many people, right?
This day got off to a rough and argumentative start, but it ended up being a good one.
And yep, these shoes are pretty fucked, but I'm not ready to pitch them yet.
They were with me at the top of Seoraksan two years ago; I bought them
from basically a roadside stall in Ewha for about $18; they're one of the things that represent my warmer Korea memories.