>> Sunday, March 28, 2010
It's 7:00 a.m. in the morning here, and I don't have to be at my first day of school at ASIJ until 9 a.m. Time to blog! Saturday I went to Kichijoji--the town I cannot pronounce the same way twice (and never correctly).
Kichijoji is four stops away, but I have to take the Seibu line to Musashi Sakai and then transfer to the JR East Chuo line to Kichijoji station. The Seibu line trains are nice, and not very crowded for Japan trains. (It's a small line.) Seibu itself is a big company though, and the sponsors of the Seibu Lions baseball team. I think that's why I see a lot of ads for them in this town, even though they play in Saitama, about 40 km west of Tokyo.
Kichijoji is dominated by an enormous covered pedestrian shopping arcade called Sunroad, with huge department stores as anchors. It's shop after shop of restaurants, clothing stores, electronic stores, and specialty shops. I spent a while in the hanko store, looking at all the various ways you can have your hanko, your signature in kanji, made into a stamp.
Here's "Hair Agreable," which sounds like an amenable place to have you hair cut.
Video game arcades are still very much alive and well in Japan. Here's an elaborate, multi-station game where you place collectible cards on your console. The cards must have chips or identifiers in them, because they "ping" with little glows around them, and represent different players on the screen. This game was a European soccer game, where you put the player cards on the console and they appeared on the screen. You position the cards to position your players, to help them perform better on the screen. There were sword and sorcerer variations on this game as well, and I found a shop in Shinjuku the next day that sold only this kind of cards.
And here's a uniquely Japanese variation on Guitar Hero: Taiko Drumming Hero!
The oddest thing about the Sunroad shopping arcade is that there's a Buddhist temple smack dab in the middle of it, like they just built the place around it. It too is open for business, as it were, so I stepped inside.
It proved to be quite an oasis.
I saw a woman enter from the shopping arcade, toss a coin in this box, pray for a moment, then pull that rope, which rang a loud bell.
In the same space was a small Buddhist cemetery--a really serene spot. All of the grave markers had wooden slats behind them, with writing on them.
The proximity of the temple to the shopping arcade made for some interesting examples of "shakkei," the Japanese word for borrowed scenery in landscaping.
This one had a sort of poetic connection to it, I thought. :-)
Outside the arcade, Kichijoji still had lots of interesting things to offer, and I wandered around for the rest of the day, taking in the sights and trying not to get run over by bicycles.
Another great piece of manhole art here--this one is a warning, I think, not to park here, as there is a fire hose connection underneath. There were larger versions of this around town too.
I later learned that there's a great place to look for used kimono in Kichijoji, so I'll have to come back with Wendi and Jo. Tomorrow, pics of my adventures in Shinjuku, the place where Lost in Translation was filmed, and which was supposedly part of the inspiration for the world in Blade Runner.