I’m trying to avoid repeating too many of the things James has said. Or talking too long, for that matter. I’ll probably fail at both, though. In my mind, half of this blog is for letting our devoted readers (there’s gotta be at least… four =P ) know what’s going on. The other half is a way for me to remember what on Earth we did. Memory is such a fickle thing.
In any case, we woke up this morning pretty tired – we woke up as late as we could and still make it to breakfast. The view from our room is spectacular – we’re on the twelfth floor, and the hotel building is one of the tallest around. Unfortunately, the window contains an embedded grid pattern, and doesn’t open very far, making it tricky to take photos through it. In any case, I promised a shot of the hotel – here it is on the left (click it to see the full image). We’re on the first floor with the light-tan walls, the fifth window from the left. Room 1210.
Breakfast was Japanese-style – for that matter, we’ll be getting a Japanese-style breakfast everywhere we’re staying. After breakfast, we decided to wander around Machida rather than do anything strenuous. Or so we thought, in any case – we wound up wandering the streets for the better part of four hours. It was fun, sure, but it was also incredibly hot. We decided to head down to Machida station to find a hundred-yen store I’d heard about on the internet. It’s the Japanese equivalent of a two-dollar store here. On the way we passed all sorts of quintessential Japanese streets, crossed a level crossing, and happened to pass by a good ol’ taste of home – Maccas. I’m particularly amused by the street in the image to the right – a standard Japanese side street with the not-so-Japanese Colonel Sanders peeking out at the far end.
We found something that looked like it might be the place. I slightly suspect I may have wound up a block short, but the place we found was still seriously impressive. The photo to the left shows the street-side display. In case you can’t tell, it’s fireworks. Things that go bang in the night. I almost bought some just because I could, though sanity caught me just in time – it’s not like I have anywhere I can let them off. =) The whole shop continued like this – not fireworks, of course, but the same sort of garish, crowded, products and price tags all over the place. We explored something like five or six floors of this, narrow isles and shelves packed full of all manner of item – anything you could think of, it was probably for sale there. We didn’t reach the top of the building, but I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed.
Things were vaguely arranged in some sort of categories, but you seriously had to wander through the whole place to find anything. I was amused to find the CD section, which had a large section headed “Import CDs” containing things like Madonna, et cetera, then turned and blundered through a curtain to encounter the adult DVDs section. We were there hoping to find a few things we might need – sunscreen, mozzie repellent, a broad-brimmed hat for me, a chapstick for James and some sort of three-pin plug to two-pin plug convertor. It was surprising how many varieties of these we found, from plugs with an Earth wire trailing out the back for manual attachment elsewhere to plugs specifically designed to be narrow enough that the Earth pin doesn’t get in the way. We didn’t manage to find any of the other things, though, but after dropping in to a bunch of other shops over the day, we eventually managed everything except the mozzie repellent.
After we were done there, we headed over to Machida Station to check out the train timetable. We were rather surprised to discover that the Yokohama line trains arrive in Machida until well after midnight, even on the weekend. Turns out all the Yokohama line trains start from Higashi-Kanagawa (East Kanagawa) after the 10:16 train – that’s the immediate next station down the Keihin-Tohoku Negishi line, about six trains of which passed while we were standing on the platform trying to decide how to get to the hotel. We were not amused, having spent over nine thousand yen on a taxi when we held rail tickets we’d already paid for. I even heard the guy say “Machida” over the PA, but since I couldn’t understand the rest of it, I didn’t know what he meant (presumably it was “Change at Higashi-Kanagawa for Machida”).
Ah well. Looking at the Machida local area map, we spotted a park not too far from the station and decided to go visit it. The park was pretty unimpressive – just grass and a play area, though there was a really nice-looking flowering tree – but along the way we walked along a river, something I’d wanted to see for real in Japan after often seeing it in anime. It’s pretty standard in Japanese cities to build up around the river… kind of canal-ising the river. I’m not really sure what the technical term is. The river is lined on both sides by a bicycle-and-walking track, and all the barricades preventing the passage of cars or motorbikes onto the path are decorated by small birds. A lot of the river was also lined by huge apartment buildings, and one section had drawings done by elementary school students along the fence. One part also had stairs leading down to an area right by the river. It was quite a nice place, with birds and fish, and cicadas. I was quite excited to hear the cicadas, as they’re a standard audio cue used in anime to indicate that it’s summer, and they sounded exactly the same here.
We were starting to get a little tired by this point, so we decided to head back to the hotel. I happen to spot a manhole cover, and remember I’d heard that Japanese manhole covers are often quite intrinsically decorated, so I started taking photos of all the different ones I saw. As we were about to pass over the train tracks again, I happened to spot two stone posts, which turned out to be marking the entrance to a Buddhist temple and graveyard. It was quite serene there – the Obon festival (to commemorate the dead) was only a week ago, so everything was all cleaned up and looking pretty. It’s the custom in Japan that the family keeps gravestones clean and clear. Another interesting thing about Japanese traditions is that people tend to have Shinto weddings, but Buddhist funerals, which is why graveyards are typically attached to the temples. We wandered around and snapped some photos, but we didn’t see anyone.
As we cross the train tracks, I glanced to one side and saw a collection of Japanese-style roofs not too far away, so we decided to head over, discovering a Shinto shrine – you can tell the difference between the two because shrines tend to have a tori gate in the entrance, while temples have more elaborate Chinese-style structures. The shrine was exactly as they are in anime – who would have thought that some of these things were based on real life? =D – complete with a man in a brown coveralls with a towel around his neck performing maintenance work. I dongled the bell and took some photos – it’s getting late, so I’ll just add them to a gallery when we work out how, rather than sticking them all in this post.
We dropped into a kombini (convenience store) to grab a cold drink or some ice cream, but I wound up buying a melon pan (melon bread) instead. It’s a bread roll that’s kind of covered in a sugary coating with a grid pattern on top. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but it was something like brioche. Quite tasty, and only a hundred and five yen (maybe $AUS 1.30 – not really sure what the exchange rate is doing at the moment). James got lunch at Subway – a shrimp and avocado six-inch. I was a bit worried at first at how he was planning on choosing his roll and stuff, until I realised that the Japanese text for pretty much everything on offer was an English loan word, meaning all we had to do to order was pronounce things in a Japanese accent (for example, rettusu for lettuce, or haabu pan for herb bread). Or point at the pictures stuck on the glass, which is what James did.
We eventually got back to the hotel, passing a bunch more interesting buildings – including another temple with a humongous tower right in the middle, no idea what it was for – and spent the rest of the afternoon resting in our (air conditioned!) room. In the evening, we headed out for a wander to find a place for dinner, winding up at the ramen place that’s almost across the road from the hotel that I saw last night. You order by buying a ticket from a machine just inside the door – which (very handily) had photos of the items, though I could read much of the katakana – and then giving it to the waiter. The food was quite tasty, and very filling.
And now it’s bed time. I really gotta write less, because this is taking me way too long. Discovered my phone charger won’t work on the lower voltage here, and the phone’s efforts to pick up a signal run the battery flat in about six hours. Fortunately, my iWap multi-charger works for the phone battery, and (as I discovered in the Opera House concert hall one Friday) the phone’s alarm works even when the phone is turned off. Time for bed now – tomorrow’s the Ghibli Museum (if you don’t know who Studio Ghibli are, it’s well worth finding out) and then over to the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art for an exhibition about Karigurashi no Arietti, the latest movie by Studio Ghibli based on The Borrowers. (It came out here last month, but even if it’s still going, it won’t be subtitled here, so we’re most likely not going to try to see it.) Photos apparently won’t be allowed in the Ghibli Museum, but I guess we’ll see what happens.
Today’s photo count: two hundred and two
Great blog!! Really enjoying your descriptions & photos – you write very well. Looking forward to the next entry!!