Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rainy Day

Yesterday was a rainy day so my plans for a picnic in Shinjuku Gyoen with friends were postponed. Instead, Dan and Alyssa came to my ku (my "hood"). We took a stroll through the back streets and wound up on a sweet little brick path. There were colorful decorated tiles on either side of the walkway. A stray cat slunk around avoiding my camera as he flitted from one great photo opp to another but hardly pausing long enough for me to snap a shot. Typical of a cat! I finally got one of him sitting on a shark tile but it wasn't nearly as nice as the one I could have gotten of him sitting next to a cat tile. A short time later, we came across a statue of Tanuki. He's a shape shifting character from Japanese folklore who is supposed to be a kind of raccoon dog (what!? I know, but it's what the dictionary says) This statue must have been somewhat old because it depicted his, ahem, um rather large "appendages" which are omitted from most of the more recent Tanuki statues. Look him up on wikipedia and you'll know what I mean, it's fun.

As we walked along, I had some inner sense that this path was there for a reason. I figured there would probably be some kind of neighborhood shrine up ahead and I wasn't disappointed. After about 10-15 minutes of walking, we found ourselves at the base of an Inari Shrine. At the time I had no idea what kind of shrine it was but it piqued my interest and I went home and did my research. Inari Shrines were built to pay respect to the god, Inari, who is the Kami (Shinto god) of rice. The shrine is guarded by foxes who are typically represented as the messengers of Inari. Before you arrive at the torii (orange/black/or red gates in front of the shrine) you are usually greeted by some ferocious looking statues (komainu).. usually lions or dogs. The guardians of this shrine were lions. This tree shaded area was so peaceful, I felt very calm and quiet as I looked at the various statues and paper crane offerings. I feel happy that there is something like this in my neighborhood. Good "thinking places" are hard to find.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Visions of Sancha

Before the loss of my camera, there was Chichibu.. and after, there was my keitai (cell phone) camera. I have uploaded some pictures to show you what I've been up to now and again.

I'm finally getting to a point where I feel settled in my tiny Sangenjaya room. Sangenjaya, or "Sancha" as the locals say, is becoming like home to me. I'm starting to recognize faces on the morning commute. The bakery near my subway stop continually pumps out delicious odors and I always kick myself for leaving only enough time to skate through the turnstyle and make it to the train as the doors slide open. I often curse the city planners for being so darn polite because I'm always stumbling over the raised yellow pathways which cover the sidewalks like the yellowbrick road. They're meant to help the blind.. but I've yet to see anyone make proper use of them. My neighborhood, Kamiuma (yes, the neighborhoods have names), has atleast 3 competing discount stores and each one has it's special allure. One is great for cheap beer, one stocks my favored pineapple gum, and one provides me with my veggies for a decent sum. I live about 5-10 minutes from the station and I pass 2 really unique neighborhood bars everyday, Tamagata and Junko. The proprietors could probably set their clocks based on my morning and evening passings though I doubt my passing is all that special. I think there are some gaijin (foreign) models who live nearby who are much more interesting to look at. I've been to Yamagata several times with Makoto. It's very rustic looking. They serve yakitori (meat and vegetables on sticks), Hoppy (the blue collar man's drink), and various kinds of tofu, daikon, and, Makoto's favorite, konyaku (a zero calorie jelly-like substance that is supposed to come from potatoes I think). The atmosphere is very intimate and it's a great place to chat (or mime in my case) with locals. Junko appeals to my sense of curiosity as there are no windows, the shape of the building is like a triangle, and the only feeling of welcome comes from the handmade curtain over the door which has a cat raising his paw to entice people to come in. I haven't mustered up the courage to go in yet but I will soon. Sancha is a haven for music lovers and there are many livehouses and rehearsal studios. I feel like it's the perfect place for me, being equidistant from work in Aobadai and Makoto in Ogikubo. Now if only I could import my family and friends from home over here...

Basically, I feel as though I've just only scratched the surface of the surface here and there is so much to explore. I'll have a red bicycle in a few weeks to expediate my explorations and I'm sure to be updating this here blogger now that I've got some things to say and some pictures to share.