I saw a couple of things I rarely see in Tokyo these last few days. One was a woman carrying an Enron tote bag – I have no idea why that might be – and another was a guy using a Blackberry. I can’t for the life of me ever recall seeing a non-Gaijin use a Crackberry in Japan.
Yesterday morning I finally made a trip to the Tsukiji Fish Market. Not to see the 5 AM tuna auction – getting up a 330 to try and get across Tokyo before the trains are running with no guarantees of even getting in would require a much greater interest level than I have in the subject. Nevertheless it was fascinating to see the inner market, which is very much a working slice of old Tokyo – they make few allowances for tourists there and are clearly annoyed by their presence. Puddles tinged with blood are everywhere, along with dying fish and speeding hand trucks and bicycles. It’s not attractive, but it is a unique experience.
Afterwards was the nearby Ginza, which is always an interesting place to see establishment Japan at its most confident and ostentatious. The depatto there are really something – I could spend hours on the food floors of Mitsukoshi (they even have a shrine on the roof) alone – and afterwards I had lunch at my favorite sushi restaurant, Midori. Sushi can be an amazing value in Japan, and Midori is among the best in that respect. The fish was so good that even the uni, which I normally detest, was quite tasty. They also don’t have the anti-foreigner bias you often see at sushi restaurants, sadly – it’s a very friendly place with outstanding service and an ever-present line out the door (the boy in front of me was reading a Kuromajo LN), including a half-hour before the 11 AM opening. Lastly a stop at Nakano Broadway – where I snapped a pic of Mandarake’s new 4th-floor entrance, and video of this very random Japan moment.
Today was Kawagoe, an old castle town an hour North of the city. The main reason I visited with a couple of school friends was to check out the monthly market – one of the students is a flea-market enthusiast – but alas with the persistent showers that was pretty much a washout despite the advertised “rain or shine” policy. It’s quite the historic place, though, with it’s dozens of kura storehouses and temples (including the exquisite Kita-in, where a fire ceremony was in progress).
On the personal front the big priority at the moment is finding an apartment, which is proving quite the challenge as I have two big strikes against me – I’m a gaijin and I don’t have a guarantor. Most Japanese have their parents act a a guarantor, most foreigners have a company that will do so – and only a Japanese citizen can act as a guarantor. The whole apartment system here – guarantors, key money, agency fees – is a bloody mess, and a convoluted one. There’s a quality to Japan, sometimes, where adherence to the system is more important than the facts of a specific case. It’s something I knew about but it certainly can be a frustration…