I’m at the beginning of another short tryst with my darling Tokyo, although free from the constraints of organised tours, I feel I will get more out of my time here.
After an inauspicious start at Narita airport, which saw me being asked by the guard at customs if I was trafficking drugs (really, is it possible to ask a more fatuous question? Has he ever had someone answer in the affirmative?), I managed to find my way to my hotel, only to discover that I couldn’t check into my room for another 4 hours. Having not slept for a whole calendar day, I decided that this would be a good time to head out to Akihibara (also known as ‘Electric City’), essentially Tokyo’s geek Parthenon. Home to every manner of electric goods as well as a dazzling array of basements with ‘over 18s only’ signs dangling ominously (some might say invitingly, though not me) over them, it truly is the district of the strange. I ventured into one massive arcade, which emitted an absolutely brain-shattering clamour; kind of like someone crossing World War II with a Pokemon game, and then clubbing you over the head with it. Suitably broken, I headed back to my hotel and went to sleep.
I woke up at 1am, waited until about 5.30 and then headed out to the Tsukiji fish market, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be up to much that early on a Sunday morning. However, my luck turned when, wandering around the area nearby, I chanced upon a large Buddhist temple, where a service was in progress. I snuck in and listened to the monks chanting in unison; a soothing, poignant experience. In a city such as this one, where people seem so anaesthesised by the rampant consumerist culture, it’s refreshing to find some kind of oasis where spirituality is still important.
I’ve spent the rest of the day so far re-discovering Harajuku, which has provided a greater source of amusement than last time I was here. One shop in particular stood out, called ‘Pet Paradise’; suffice to say, if you’ve ever wanted to dress your pet up as another animal, this is the place for you. I’m not even going to attempt to psychoanalyse that one. Another store, the name of which I forget, contained a sign which assured customers that all items are ‘made in the world’. Which was a relief, because I’ve never been satisfied with anything I’ve bought that was made in outer space.
A quick note on my immediate surroundings (namely an internet cafe): punters are given individual booths with doors that lock, privacy guaranteed. I’m not sure what to make of this. Should I be worried? There’s a miniscule piece of what looks like stale salmon at the top of the keyboard…
Ah, Tokyo. Always shocking, never surprising.