Ok, maybe they weren’t fooling about the bicycle parking thing.But it really doesn’t appear that the Japanese give a damn about the prohibitions on bicycle parking.It’s hard to know what is OK and what is not when you are surrounded by outlaws.It’s like learning proper dating etiquette from Young Jeezy videos.
To the left, you can see that the Japanese have erected a very elaborate and long-winded warning demanding that people not park their bicycles along the sidewalk here. The sign warns that bicycles will be impounded and crushed if parked here.
The rider was not impressed.
I think I finally found something A really loves about Japan – shopping.I suppose that would be obvious to any woman, and I’m not saying she doesn’t like the temples.But one thing I often forget is something very important about Annie.She is small.
Small, like when we go to Nordstrom, she can walk into the shoe section and say: “bring me all your size fours.”And I think “all of them???” only to be answered 2 ½ minutes later by some beleagured salesman carrying 5 boxes of shoes and a pair of feather boots.
So here, in the land of the small, she’s about in the middle.Thus, for the first time in her life, she can walk into any store at any covered shopping arcade and if she sees something she likes, be it a bracelet, a jacket, whatever, they will have her size and she can buy it..I left her alone for 2 hours so that I could finally check out the various anime, manga, and bookshops, and when I came back to our meeting point expecting to find her waiting and miserable – she showed late and desirous of only one thing – another two hours.
The first shopping trip was to a flea market of sorts.The Kitano Tenmangu Tenjin-San flea market commemorates the death of some dude who died about 1200 years ago.That is inherently odd to an American like me, who thinks his 1937 house is old.It was incredible, and it also let me try my hand at haggling in Japanese.My first attempt saved me about 5% off, which is a polite way of saying I completely failed.By the end I was getting prices slashed way down, and one lady actually complimented me on my haggling, laughing at the American who talked her down.I even managed to carry on a conversation almost entirely in the local Kyoto dialect, which was hilarious to the sales ladies.
I’m starting to wonder what the Japanese think of their own culture.Some Americans, the martial-arts students, anime-watchers, or history students, treat it with reverence.But for us, I think reverence means something different.At Tenjin-san, people built their little shops right along the temple grounds and the shoppers shopped, took a break to pay their respects at the temple, and bought totems and luck charms at the temple alongside clothes and trinkets at the shops.
Next stop – Teramachi covered shopping arcade and Nishiki Market.Even inside the Kyoto’s biggest shopping arcades, there were little shrines.It’s not as if there was a call to prayer every 4 ½ hours – but these things are maintained by somebody, and whoever that is has the time and money to do it.I have yet to see a shrine that wasn’t in perfect condition, even if it did have vending machines flanking each side.
Yet they fully embrace old Shinto concepts into their everyday world.You can’t walk 50 meters in Japan without running into a “Tanuki,” which is a guardian-spirit in the form of a racoon dog.You can identify it by it’s little hat, big belly, and enormous, um, well, testicles.The Tanuki usually carries a sake bottle in his right hand and either an empty purse or promissory note in the left.As a guardian spirit, he’s both irresponsible and somewhat unreliable, or so I understand.
I guess the simple fact is that you can’t understand Japan unless you are Japanese, and even then if you were you wouldn’t be able to answer these questions because they are questions you wouldn’t ask.
The day ended with a trip to Shakey’s Pizza.Now I’ll have to admit, I’ve never been to Shakey’s in the U.S.I know it only because of South Park, and even then only because it’s Eric Cartman’s favorite restaurant next to Casa Bonita.And let me tell you, eating octopus or a living fish has nothing on eating at a completely American restaurant in Japan.It was eerie.Everything was America, except that it wasn’t.The pizza had pepperoni and corn, egg and chocolate sauce, green tea matcha and chocolate and mayonnaise, and then there was curry and rice on the side as well.Of course.
It was better than Pizza Hut, I’ll say that.And the company was a bit different – this was where the cool kids, the punk kids, the girls with the dyed hair and fake eyelashes, wearing 6 inch heels and 6 inch skirts, sat with boyfriends who wore sunglasses inside and mugged Jon Bon Jovi circa 1986.I think the little tea house in the middle of Chion-In where the woman in the kimono served us tea and sweets felt less alien than Shakey’s in Teramachi.