Japan – Day 8

Well, I dreamed of earthquakes last night – but not scary dreams.  They just sort of happened but it didn’t seem to rattle me too much.  Then when I woke up today things were pretty much normal in Tokyo.  If I hadn’t known there was a quake there were certainly no obvious signs. It was a long way away, after all, and these folks are pretty used to it.

Today I discovered the amazing town of Kichijoji, half an hour West of downtown.  It’s the home of the Ghibli Museum (well, that’s technically in Mitaka) among other things.  But it’s also a leafy, artistic and lively town with a gorgeous park – Inokashira – with a pond, zoo, loads of history and during April, some of the most amazing cherry blossoms you’ll ever see.  It’s windy as hell and has been all day so this might have been the last chance to really enjoy them, but they were spectacular.

There’s a sense among serious anime fans that you almost need to apologize for liking Miyazaki, but I don’t buy it.  He’s a genius – a giant among directors, living or dead, live-action or animated.  His success has made him toxic to some fans, but there’s a reason for it – he has an amazing imagination and visual flair and can tell a story brilliantly.  His museum is small and had to get tickets for (you must buy in advance, no walk-ups) but really a magical place.  It’s an homage to animation, not just Ghibli – and imagination too.  Every little detail is just so, and just a little cooler than it need to be.  Even the bathrooms and fire extinguisher’s are clever, creative and whimsical.  I wish I could show pictures, but they don’t allow them inside.

I confess I got a little emotional watching the sakura in the park.  They were so beautiful, and the Edoites were out enjoying them despite their pig-dog governor telling them not to.  The sheer resolve of these people is staggering – they take so many punches and have so much stress, yet they just keep going forward and getting on with life.  I know there’s a darker side to this, but in the context of the moment it’s really admirable.

I never really feel like I’m in Tokyo till I’ve been on the Yamanote Line – it was nice to be back.  Shinjuku is the best place in town to really feel the scope of transit here – the mad rush of people that never seem to get in each other’s way, the symphony of track jingles competing with each other…  Tat’s the place to really get a sense of Tokyo.  I just really love this town – it has a great energy and a relentless forward motion that’s infectious.  Everything that a big city should be, Tokyo is for me.

While in Kichijoji I finally made it to Cat Cafe Calico (vid below).  I believe this was the one that started the trend – the very first cat cafe in Japan.  Cat therapy for 900 yen an hour, and they do it well.  Also enjoyed perhaps the best bowl of ramen I’ve had, from Matsumiya.  They’re a Sapporo miso ramen specialist that just opened a branch in the new expansion of “Ramen Street” at Tokyo Station.  Very cool idea – rotating ramen legends from all over the country.  They just had  a grand opening of 4 new ones today, and when I arrived – admittedly at 715 on a Friday night – lines were huge.  This was the shortest, so I picked it – and was not disappointed.  Great bowl of spicy miso ramen, top-notch all around.

I’ve been so lucky on weather (if not afterhsocks) – clear every day and pretty warm most.  Alas, tomorrow the forecast calls for rain but I can’t really complain – looks like being the only wet day of the trip and I’d rather it happen in Tokyo than elsewhere.  I could have a decent day just enjoying the underground shopping centers in this town…

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