September 6th, 2007

japan 1

Japan travel day, um, four?... Five...? Still in Tokyo, anyway...

They decided that the coming typhoon was an obstacle in the tour schedule so we were held over in TOkyo for the day instead of going to Kyoto this morning as planned - but the typhoon is just about settling in, like, NOW so we might have a rather more interesting time of it tomorrow morning than the tour operators intended.

Ah well.

In the meantime, back at the ranch (can you say that in Japan?) we had Culture Day. We weren't sure what he weather would be doing so we opted for indoor activities - and planned out a day of museums and such. The first we hit was the Edo Tokyo Musem, which traced the history of this region from way way way way wayyyyyyyyyyy back in time. It was fascinating stuff, they had everything from early manuscripts to dioramas of kabuki theatre and the bombing raids on WWII Tokyo and 1950 Toshiba washing machines (funky critters, those - think Dalek). I learned a considerable amount about Tokyo's past and apparently the local schools have the same idea because lots of schoolkids were milling about inside while we were there, many of them clad in the Sailor Moon type of uniform I'd first seen back in Yokohama. Very orderly, very mannerly lines of kids with the occasional exuberant high spirits (three of them climbed on the displayed rickshaw - yes, it WAS permitted - and piled on inside on the seat holding finger "rabbit ears" over one another's heads while a fourth took a picture. carl_allery took a photo of me folded into a sedan chair - lordy but they were cramped and uncomfortable, I had never been this close to a real one before I'll think twice about sticking any of my characters in one from now on.

We spent a thoroughly enjoyable morning there, keeping an eye on the weather - and the winds had definitely picked up a bit in the time that we were inside but it was still okay so we forged ahead and took the Shinjuku line (oh, we SO own the underground...) to a mid-line station which promised a bonsai museum within striking distance of it but although we went up and down EVERY local street within the radius of a country mile we could not find the place. carl_allery did ask one fellow in a flower shop, figuring that he worked with plants and would therefore know about a bonsai museum nearby) but he made dubious chopping motions with his hands which might have either meant "I have no idea what you want" or "The museum, she is no more". After trudging along this way and that for a fruitless while we gave it up as a useless job and went back to the station to catch the train to the NEXT museum on the agenda, the Japanese Sword Museum.

This one we chickened out and took a cab to, and it was just as well because it was tucked away in a back alley which housed the premises of the Japanese Sword Research Society and their facilities (including a library of medieval documents on swordmaking, mentioned in their pamphlets but probably only open to serious students of the art. But their display area was AWESOME. Swords from the great samurai era, swords from way back in 1639, swords from as late as the 1800s, all shining, all polished to a wicked gleaming edge, oh, it was beautiful. And the whole THING is a work of art, the blade, often carved - the knotwork on the handle - the lacquered scabbard - the gilded pommels - it was just amazing. They handed us these pamphlets explaining things, and how the swords were made, and how to read the "folding" markings on the steel, amazing stuff.

But by the time we came out it was looking very gray, so we took a cab back to Shinjuku station (where EVERYTHING stops...) and from thence the train back to Shinagawa, and from thence (better safe than sorry) a cab back to the hotel. We don't plan on leaving this building tonight. carl_allery found a random Japanese TV chanel on the flat-screen TV in our room and we've been watching weather reports for a while now - live reporting from the leading edge of the typhoon, it all looks pretty wild, but although we've had a few solid downpours and the trees are definitely stirring outside we haven't seen anything major going on. Yet. Watch this space. Having watched the video of the waves breaking over the shore in a fury of white foam I now know exactly where those iconic Japanese paintings of looming white-crested waves come from. I've just seen them happen before my eyes.

Our tour is apparently on as scheduled tomorrow morning - I double checked to see. We might have a few sights to see on the way to Kyoto...

Isn't Japan pleasant and polite - we get the FULL experience laid out for us. Well, no bonsai - but history, and samurai, and swords, AND a typhoon thrown in for good measure...