Friday, May 5

Happy Kodomo No Hi (Children's Day)!  Today is the other holiday in Golden Week, celebrating children and their happiness.  It's also a good day for parents and their children to go out and see the sights, and to go shopping.  On my excursions today there were lots of families out, many more than I've seen on other days.   Yesterday was really busy too, and on that day my friend Keith and I went to Harajuko, an area on the western portion of Tokyo, where the Meiji Shrine is located.  That shrine, which I have not yet visited, is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, whose reign and the Meiji Restoration ended the Shogunate that had been in control of Japan from 1603.  I hope to visit this before I leave.

Anyway, the trip takes us via several subway lines to Harujuku station win Shibuya-ku.  We went there the night before, to the busiest intersection in the world.  Today we're going to a museum and then walk about a mile to another subway station.  Getting off the subway we see what we're in for, masses of people:

We went to the Ota Memorial Museum of Art, which is dedicated to the fine art of wood block prints.  The current exhibit is that of "Women's Lessons and Amusements", and has many special pieces of a genre known as bijin-ga, or pictures of beautiful women.  You can click this link to see an archive of the exhibition page.  As usual, no photos inside, just a picture of me in front of the museum holding my bag of prints of 36 Views of Mount Fuji.
Ota Museum

Then it was off to see what this shopping area looks like.  As you can see, it's a massive jam of people, not all keeping left.  It was actually kind of painful shuffling along in stretches.  But there are vast quantities of people out on this holiday.
Teeming Masses  More people

One interesting place people were getting food had this little octopus logo, and based on what it looked like, it seemed to be pieces of octopus cut up, breaded and fried.  Here's the menu.  And let me tell you, the line was 20 long for this.

This store amazed us.  "Used Casual Wear" sounds like usual vintage stuff.  However, they were selling old jeans from the 50's, 60's and 70's, even up through the 80's for more than $300.  There was one pair in a special area that they were asking 50,000¥.  And some old faded-bleached-white jeans from the 80's that had rips in the pockets where you put your thumb, were going for $100.  I just threw out a couple of pairs of those, too!  Rats.
Lost Opportunity

It turns out our direction-finding equipment was faulty, and rather than heading for Omotesandō station like we expected, we had gone down Meiji-dori and ended up at Shibuya station again.  An American couple was equally lost as us, and we were unfortunately unable to direct them to the Outback Steakhouse.  But they reminded us that the statue of Hachikō is just the other side of the station so we went over to get our compulsory tourist photos taken with him.  Read the wikipedia story, but the short version is this dog was a faithful companion to his master, and when the master died, the dog continued to come to Shibuya station every day to greet him, for another eleven years.  They put up a statue in the dog's honor, and the dog was even there for its unveiling.  Nice.

Did you note the letter ō I used in the paragraph above?  I came across an article on Hepburn Romanization, which has nothing to do with an actress, but is rather a standard way of translating Japanese sounds into the Roman alphabet.  Anyway, back to our story.

While at Shibuya station, we were thinking about dinner, and inside the Tokyu Department Store there is an enormous food arcade selling mostly prepared foods for take home.  We were feeling kind of sushi, and after sampling this we decided to get the box.  1380¥.  Even the presentation is nice.  Here's the bamboo box, top and bottom:
Dinner  Dinner
And what was inside:  crab, salmon roe, sweet egg cake, all on a bed of rice, with some pickled ginger in the bottom right.  My usual Thursday night fare, to be sure...  There was a take-home menu that shows whole party packages, and the company that makes it has a web site, available here.
Kakiya Sushi  Take out menu

Today I went back to Akihabara and bought some more presents and stuff.  I have to watch my cash this weekend, because most ATMs don't take American bank cards, PLUS or Cirrus are not so available here.  I've only been able to use the ATM at the Post Office, which is of course closed for the holiday.  Some other notes, I got home and there was a message on my room answering machine.  I don't know if someone actually left me a message, but there was some Japanese and then it played an electronic version of Greensleeves for 3 minutes.  It was nice, but what did it mean- Christmas is coming?  Yeah, I know, I know...

Also, the Japanese are really into their text messaging. I was the only western guy on the subway today, and out of the ~30 people on the train, 20 were sending messages with their phones.  I find it tiresome to do it at home, but I'm told by an American that in Japanese it's actually really convenient to send messages because the phone prompts you to input the characters in a menu.  Maybe.  But I do know that there is some practical use for it here.  Street addresses are not particularly useful because it will only get you within a few blocks of your destination.  Lots of restaurants and stores have a system that if you text something to a specific phone number, it will send you back a graphical map on where they are.  That's useful!

That's it for today.  One more week or so to go.