Sunday, April 11, 2010

#9: Back in the Library Again

Well, folks, I came to Japan to do research, and that's what I've been doing recently, that and little else. I won't bore you with the details, but I thought you'd like to see some images I captured when I was not sitting for six or seven hours at a stretch on a hemmy-inducing wooden chair, breathing in flakes of yellowed magazine paper, or slaving over a hot copying machine. Instead of the motto hanging in the library that says, in Latin, "All the World's a Stage," they should hang one saying: WARNING: LIBRARIES CAN BE BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH!

While taking a lunch break yesterday I noticed a crowd gathered at a junction on the Waseda University campus and discovered a karate club and its sensei demonstraing the art of board kicking. The sensei was about to give a master demo of how to do it. One student was hoisted aloft by his buddies, and held a solid wooden board at an angle to the sensei. But the sensei wasn't satisfied with the angle, and kept adjusting it. It looked a bit foolish, with him stopping and starting, and, as the video shows, the rest is history.

After the library closed, my friend Zvika and I left to meet another friend, John Gillespie, at a restaurant near the Omotesando section of Tokyo. We had time to kill before we  met John so we wandered around the area, which is famous for its high-end boutiques and restaurants. It's very near the young, hip neighborhood called Harajuku, now a famous brand name in the U.S. The street we walked down led to a structure whose gleaming spire could be seen from a considerable distance. To get to it we walked down a ritzy side street whose brightly lit shops and hair salons are captured in this video. At one point, you can hear a truck blaring one of Tokyo's most familiar street sounds from the old days, the musical voice of a truck vendor crying "yaki imo" (baked potatoes). Our destination proved to be St. Grace Cathedral, a church built only four years ago (two years subsequent to my last visit to Japan), and designed not as a place for religious worship but as a catering establishment for Christian-style weddings (you don't have to be Christian to enjoy St. Grace's facilities), big parties, and so on. You can hear Zvika and me asking the attendants about when the place was built.

As the video shows, directly across the street is the fabulous St, Grace outdoor mall, which we walked through before navigating our way to the restaurant.

Here are some shots taken around Omotesando. First is the distinguished-looking Zvika. Then comes a brilliantly lit truck with a commerical on its side. Then follow a fancy shoe store and a piano store with a couple of unusual pianos (they've been in the window for years). After these come a couple of hair salons.

The restaurant was Pueblo Aoyama, which serves Spanish-style food and has a crowded, funky atmosphere. We ate with John, a business consultant raised in Japan but long resident in New York, who is an expert in modern Japanese theatre, his nephew, Jason, and Jason's Japanese friend, Kaya, a linguist. The food, wine, and company were wonderful, and by the time I got home, I was practically dead to the world.

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