Japan (and Hong Kong)
Dec 4 - Arrived at Narita. They said flying time was eleven hours, but it didn't
seem that long. Checked in at the Prince & then split for Shibuya.
It's 10PM and I still don't feel tired. Bought CD's at Tower, but
Tokyu Hands didn't have any Cosmo - only DMC 25.
Dec 5 - in the Kanda YMCA. Sitting here in my yukata, it's hard to believe
I've only been back one day - this is all so natural. Awoke much too early,
and followed all the touristy advice & went down to the Tsukiji fish market.
Quite a scene - I was most taken by the simple three-wheeled cargo vehicles
in use there. The only dynamic component was the front drum - the top was
combination steering wheel-throttle; the middle, motor; and the bottom, the
single driving wheel. This big drum pivoted (it also had a single headlight)
and the driver stood on the platform, most of whose space was for payload.
Went back to Prince via Sengakuji temple again, for the 47 Ronin.
Then explored a bit of Roppongi, but that trip was mainly to check out WAVE - a
great music store. Then moved over to Kanda, and after check-in, hit
Akihabara again. This time it wasn't dead at all during the night. Had some
nabe noodles, and finally went back along a familiar sports store
cluster - everyone was buying ski stuff. I had my first yaki-imo - no big deal.
Dec 6 - Seems like all today was, was futile running about; but I think that's
because a lot of what I saw today was familiar. Awoke with a splitting headache,
and the first choshoku didn't faze it none. An Excedrin did, however. Stowed
the bag in a locker corner of Shinjuku underground that was surrounded by a
dozen homeless (!). Then rode the Seibu subway to Arai Yakushi, there to visit
the monthly flea market at the temple. (Bought a couple of dolls, cheap ... the
Lucas girls may get them.) Then back to Shinjuku to hit the new Tower records
for a mini-concert by They Might Be Giants. Had a snack at a mechanical sushi
bar, then checked into this too-expensive Washington Hotel. Wandered around
evening Shinjuku, and "It's Been Done". Had a curry dinner at a place that
reminded me of "The Difference Engine" scene: "We will have places such as
this in my country! Clean! Modern! Rapid!" Now I'm watching a WWII documentary
with the sound off, as the radio plays japanesey-muzak Christmas carols. In
the AM, I see a big truck parked downstairs - its message:
SHYNESS OVERDRIVE TOUR 1992
Dec 7 - left Shinjuku, and headed towards Asakusa. A short journey to an
embroidery shop was a successful experience in Tokyo navigation, but no Cosmo.
The 2-hour trip to Nikko dragged on to 4 - another local vs. express problem.
Now I'm ensconced in the Pension
Dec 8 - Awoke to pouring rain. It had tapered off by the end of my Western
breakfast (with weird fruit - kaki?) whence I went off to the line of stone
bhuddas called Bakejizo. Then in-depth look at the main Nikko attractions:
the Shinkyo bridge, the Toshogu Shrine with Yomeimon gate, and the Futarasan Temple.
The younger Turtle woman then gave me a ride back to the station, and I walked
about downtown Nikko before the (real) 2-hour ride back to Tokyo. Checked in
to the first hotel available at Ueno, then went shopping in that nearby market area.
Rode over to Shibuya for some more mechanical sushi, then back for more Ueno
walkabout. Tonight it wasn't cold at all, but balmy. A neat sight was an officer
directing traffic around some utility work: the usual red wand he was waving not
only illuminated, but strobing.
Dec 9 - Wotta Day, Wotta Day! It had both victories and failures, including an
incredibly frustrating bed search that finally terminated in this Ueno 'love hotel'
called le Chic, adjacent to the train tracks and upstairs from a pachinko parlor.
Although the day began with the ingeniously thrifty purchase of an all-day
subway pass, a grim harbinger of things to come was a brief[ly futile] search
around Ueno for a locker. Bag stashed, I set off for Ginza/Tokyo station.
After a brief TIC consultation, their second embroidery tip proved
positive - Cosmo secured. Casting about for these Prefectural Handicrafts,
finally discovered them on the 9th floor of Daimaru depato.
Then back to Tsukiji for unagi lunch, and knife & hashi purchase.
Back to Roppongi to investigate Axis (great clocks in Spiral) and a return to
Wave for Slade purchase. En route to Ebisu for laundry, detoured to Jimbocho
for the Kanda Kosho center - found it this time. 9 floors: used records
(including jazzy 78's), used manga & other magazines, porn tapes, new manga,
old postcards, half of one floor was Russian music, and half of another was a
curry restaurant. Plus floors of old Nihon books. After the laundromat, the
frustrating search began ... musta asked 25 times around five stations.
Tomorrow, Hong Kong - the adventure really begins.
Dec 10 - Waiting at Narita ... Yesterday's folly must have fogged my brain - I left
for the airport much earlier than necessary - or perhaps I just wanted to ditch
that much-too-heavy blue bag? Departure wing observations: those big silver tubes
pointed out over the throng's heads, and that tall post in the middle, surmounted
by a big green orb that glows bright, then dims, then glows
again ... and now, a seasonal addition - a tall christmas tree.
Whew - arrived in Hong Kong, and the neon doesn't blink (as George Davis said so
long ago.) Lots isn't working, though, like Las Vegas. But the filthy streets
are a shock, and this King's Hotel - well, I haven't stayed in a dive like this
Dec 11 - Ran from King's, after a night that miraculously contained some
sleep. Had a greasy fast-food breaky at the clownish Fairwood, strolling
around downtown Tshimshatsui. Changed money and then hit the Opal Mine - if
they hadn't been playing that annoying Christmas music, I might have stayed
even longer (and spent more). Then moved into east Tshimshatsui, reconfirmed
flights at the Korean office, and strolled the Promenade. Had an Indonesian
lunch and did some shopping, then fled Kowloon via the MTR subway (trains
are strange in that there's no doors between cars. The system's reminiscent
of the London Underground - the little balls instead of rings to hang onto,
big ads on the tunnel walls, and little ones along the fast moving escalators).
Surfaced on Hong Kong Island, and immediately boarded a double-decker tram.
Rode it to the end of the line by mistake, and walked for over an hour to
find the Emerald Hotel. Hong Kong has a couple of weird wows: almost every
restaurant, and many other businesses, have little, prominent, on-site
shrines. A red box contains a figurine, watched over by one, or
maybe two or three red light bulbs. Sometimes this shrine is outside, by
the door, and is merely a red-tiled alcove, empty save for some burned down
joss sticks. The other thing is an abundance of off-nominal barber poles,
fast-spinning, horizontal as well as vertical, and striped in orange and green,
or yellow and black, and sometimes checked. After the Emerald check-in, took
another long stroll, which terminated at the Peak Tram, which I naturally
rode up to the Peak. Got Pam's dream "chop" up there, and then rode down. The
view wasn't that terrific - it was hazy. Took more tram rides, back and
forth, drinking in the neon. Finished with a low-key dinner at the hotel
Dec 12 - A day of ferry rides and fast-food "mixed grill". I write this
in the absolute worst accommodations I've ever endured - a $16 closet
on the top (17th) floor of Chunking Mansions "B" block. I could have
easily gotten better; frankly, this is a Honk Kong experience I
wanted ... it's much more scuzzy than I could have possibly imagined ... before.
Still, all is secure, and with hardly any luck I'll fly out tomorrow on schedule.
This morning, after sleeping late and well, I walked away from the Emerald and
let perhaps ten crowded trams go by before boarding one for "Central". I
finally got inside the round-windowed Jardin House to check out the HKTA
office there, but couldn't look through any of the windows. Domage. Anyway,
rode the Star ferry back to Kowloon, shopped (well, looked ...
the concentric spheres carved from ivory or jade are amazing.
So are the entire scenes carved from a single tusk) and had lunch. After
mansion check-in (kind of a bait-and-switch from the much nicer Mirador
Mansion) rode the subway north to Mongkok and walked down Hong Lok Street,
the Bird Market alley. Then a continued promenade down Nathan, trying
to think of the right word to describe this place - "hellish" seems
slightly too extreme. [Finally settled on "infernal."] After touching
base in my cell, visited the Space Museum, and then rode the ferry back
to Hong Kong island where a double-decker bus took me to Aberdeen. There,
a smaller ferry went out to the famous floating restaurants. Now, there's
three, but they're all connected into one mass, along with multi-storey
support barges at their rear. Bus back, ferry back, can't get back to Japan
soon enuf! Noises that night included fighting cats; jabbering Pakistani,
both live and televised; and the occaisional PING from the impact of an
empty beverage can, hurled from a window.
Dec 13 - In the morning had a jolly breakfast at the Mad Dogs English Pub, then
finally made the airport, where I swiped one of those dragon-balls. Imitation
ivory, it seems. In the evening, checked in to the Park Side business hotel in
Ueno, and did a walkabout.
Dec 14 - The next morning bought ties nearby, then a final mad dash over to
Akihabara "Electric Town" for purchase of a radio and futile CD search.
Checked in at the recommended time at Narita, and had so-so tempura at
a restaurant on the 5th floor. Fooled around forever, ran for the gate,
made another flight - and am now home, mission thoroughly complete.
DMC, Cosmo - embroidery thread companies
yaki-imo - baked sweet potato
depato - department store