Saturday, April 17, 2010

#12: Spring Snow in Tokyo

Last night the temperature dropped into the 30s, and Tokyo actually had snow in mid-April for the first time in over 40 years. Of course, you could have picked up all the snow and put it in your pocket but it was snow nonetheless.

I wore four layers of clothing, none of them winter weight, to brave the cold, but by mid-afternoon the sun had come out and the temperature had climbed into the upper forties. I soon began to match my sweaty friend, drop for drop.

Most of the day was spent at the Waseda theatre library. When I left around 3:15 I spotted my former mentor, the great Japanese theatre scholar, Torigoe Bunzo, walking toward the library. Torigoe-sensei is now in his late 70s, perhaps older, and several years ago recovered from cancer, so it was touching to see him looking so well. I haven't seen him in six years, and wasn't sure how he was doing. We had a warm, if momentary, meeting, as I was rushing to meet Kei Hibino at Ochanomizu.

From Ochanomizu Station, Kei and I hiked several blocks to Tezuka Shobo, a tiny theatre bookshop in a back alley of Jinbocho, the remarkable new and used book section of Tokyo. Bookstores of all descriptions line the streets here, something now totally alien back home; the area around New York's Strand Bookstore  on Broadway and W. 10th Street was once a bit like this, but with nowhere near as many shops. Tezuka Shobo is not quite the hole-in-the wall that Kobikido, the bookstore I wrote about the other day, is; the difference, though, is that here the hole is slightly bigger. It's almost impossible for two people to pass one another in what stand for aisles. But the store is very well organized, and the proprietor knew immediately where every book I asked for was. His inventory is catalogued online so books can also be purchased over the Internet. Like Kobikido, this store also owns the remnants of a previous theatre books establishment. Kobiki-den is what is left of the Okumura bookshop, while Tezuka's books once belonged to the Toyoda store. I made a substantial selection and arranged for their shipping.

While in the store, I spotted a pretty young Western woman buying a bunch of books and speaking very good Japanese. I asked if she was American. She said no, she was Polish. It turns out her name is Iga Rutkowska and she's a doctoral student in Tokyo writing her Ph.d. on jishibai, the rural, amateur kabuki that still exists in farming and fishing villages all over Japan. When I ventured to mention my name, her cheeks suddenly flushed and I was much taken by the charm of her reaction. She said she was very grateful for an Frozen Moments: Writings on Kabuki, 1966-2001 (Cornell East Asia, No. 111) (Cornell East Asia Series)essay in my book Frozen Moments, which is probably the most complete description of the jishibai in English. I was thrilled to learn that that piece, which very few people are even aware of, had had even a slight significance to a researcher in the field from so far away as Poland. Being partly of Polish heritage myself, I felt enormously gratified. But meeting her here in this tiny, out-of-the way bookstore in a back alley of Jinbocho, really made my day.

No comments:

Post a Comment