Change of Plans

NB: If it’s been a while since you’ve been here, you’ll probably want to scroll down until you see the picture of Miyajima’s floating torii, read that, and then work your way up. I’ve back-posted about four days worth of entries in addition to this one, which will be supplemented tomorrow at some point with more detail. There would be more tonight, but it’s quarter after eleven, and I’m spent.

Hikari 310 pulled into Tokyo station on time, 14:43 JST on 21 October, 2004. It took me about two seconds after stepping off the train to make up my mind about what I was going to do. Ever since the encounter with Fuji-san I had been toying with the idea of abandoning the old plan. The old plan was for me to catch the earliest NEX back out to Narita and fall into my hotel. It had a lot of appeal: I could go to the health club and work out, get that massage I’ve been hankering for, catch up on my e-mail, and generally relax my last night in Japan. And, had the weather been crappy, it would have been exactly what I would have done.

Instead, the remnants of the typhoon had long since departed the Kanto plain, and, at 14:43 in the afternoon, the sun was approaching the western horizon, scorching metropolitan Tokyo with That Light. You know the light I’m talking about — the light I had for about four days on this trip, and never in Tokyo. Well, I’m not one to let an opportunity like this pass, and I did have half a roll of film to finish off. “Where could I go in four hours in Tokyo?” I wondered. Ah. What was it that I missed out on thanks to the first typhoon? Asakusa, and Senso-ji. Simple deal: Hop the Yamanote line to Ueno, pop onto the Ginza subway line, and come out practically on the temple’s front doorstep. Take some pictures, have something to eat, be back at Tokyo-eki for the 18:03 departure to Narita. Perfect.

A brilliant idea, as it turned out.

By the time I finished dropping my luggage off in Tokyo’s cloakroom (for an extoritonate charge, by the way) and made it up to the Yamanote line platform, the light was even better that it was on the way in. I decided to, um, make a stop in an undisclosed location for the purpose of picking up a gift for someone that will remain undisclosed until they, um, receive it (preferably sooner rather than later, but you never can tell). Back on the train up to Ueno; I caught a glimpse of the park through the station windows, and I’ll tell you this: It’s a hell of a lot nicer-looking in the golden sunshine than in the pouring rain. Have I mentioned I’m really annoyed about the crappy weather I had during this trip? No? Well, I am.

Senso-ji didn’t disappoint. I’ll elaborate tomorrow, but for now let’s just say that I committed a cardinal sin in getting stuck somewhere photogenic with no film appropriate for the circumstances. It’s funny that I had everything in my bag except color ISO 400 C41 film. Had 800 color film. Had BW C41 400 speed film. Had a range of E6. But no Portra400. This is the part where I bang my head against the gate.

I stopped at Daikinuya, a tempura place just off [mumble] in Asakusa that came highly recommended by a number of people whose opinions I trust. For Y1,890 I had the best tempura ebi donburi I’ve ever had, anywhere. It’s not your typical tempura, either; this stuff was seasoned before and after it spent quality time in the oil, and the shrimp had been splayed open, creating a flat tail about an inch wide.. oh, it was delicious.

The expedition had an additional purpose. While I was deeply ambivalent about leaving Tokyo two weeks ago (thanks to the crowds and the fact I was sick and tired of not being able to find anything), I don’t think I had yet fully adjusted to life in Japan. The trip into the city today was partly about seeing whether I could tolerate Tokyo now that I am adjusted. Would I like the city more now that I was comfortable in a foreign country?

Answer: Hell yeah. Tokyo: Not such a bad place after all. Even at rush hour on the trains, it.. wasn’t so bad. It almost makes me not want to leave, now that I’ve got the hang of this place.

That said, it’s probably time for me to go. I was standing on the NEX platform in Tokyo station earlier tonight, and then at the hotel’s registration desk, and then in the lounge, and..

I kept thinking how annoyed I was the place was full of gaijin.

Definitely time to go home.