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2007-09-28 Last Day

An English report is due today. So, what did we do? Yesterday we went to bed around two and got up again at a quarter to five. Why, you ask? We wanted to go to the world’s largest fish market. The first subway goes at 5:15, and tuna auctions start at 5:50. I got up with considerable difficulty. Thanks to a full bladder I was able to reach a vertical position, and once all the extra blood drained from my brain, I was able to move about and get dressed.

I felt a little ill at easy at the market, because it is clearly not meant for tourists. There are workers carrying Styrophoam boxes full of fish, shrimps, eel, mussels, blood, ice, strange scooters carrying huge, frozen tuna bombs, and the tourists gawking are always in the way.

We bought some bento – rice balls wrapped in nori with some tuna, inari sushi, iced milk tea, and headed back home. We had to change rooms for our last night in Tokyo and moved from a “Japanese Style” to a “Western Style” room. The difference as far as I can tell from a short survey:

  1. The cushions, armrests, and the Japanese coffee table are missing.
  2. The paper screens for the windows have been replaced by a curtain.
  3. The bathtub is no longer made of wood but tiles. It still has more or less the same size.
  4. The fridge is bigger.
  5. The room is smaller.

Everything else is the same: Tatamis for half the room, futons to sleep in, toilet slippers.

And we have half a day left in Tokyo.

The sun is back and the weather is hot. We decide to go underground. We’ll take some time and look at some department stores. Watching people, seeing the things they buy, walking through the artificial landscapes of modern capitalism – we often enjoy this on our holidays, because it gives us a glimpse of the differences and similarities between our cultures.

We got out at Ōtemachi, walked to the Wadakura Fountain Park, looked at the moat around Kōkyō Higashi-Gyoen, the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, walked east and crossed Tokiwabashi, and went to see the Mitsukoshi Department Store. They had fabulous lackerware. Some of the pieces we liked cost around CHF 7000. Even chopsticks were between CHF 25 and CHF 60. A three piece bento box set I had seen at Matsuzakaya near Ueno for about CHF 85 cost CHF 105 at Mitsukoshi.

We like the contrast between british conservative clothing for businessmen and their wives and lavish kimonos where you could spend thousands of Swiss Francs. On the one hand, globalized capitalism and its pseudo-individuality, and on the other hand, old traditions turned into luxury items for the same class of people.

I really enjoyed the little terrariums they had on display. All it contained was moss and plants. A little jungle fantasy in a very small space. And tools to go along with it: Long scissors with which to reach into the aquarium to prune the plants, special hydroculture pebbles, and more esoteric tools of non-obvious use. It felt like watching the birth of a new short-lived trend; something that feeds on the fascination for bonsais and aquariums. While we stood and wondered, little moisturizers switched on and filled the terrariums with a cool mist. That’s how they keep the moss alive indoors! Slowly my mind started drifting… Images of bacteria spreading, fungal kingdoms waging war against the upper class moss, owners desperately clinging to their septic visions of purity, and the tiny machines keep moisturizing this bio nightmare like mechanical lungs. Fascinating!

After a lot of walking, we needed some rest and something to eat. Claudia and I decided to try the shopping arcades around Tokyo station, for surely there must be a lot of them. We took the subway, and started looking for them. But we didn’t find any! And as we started to venture outside into the open air, we saw the same buildings we had just left, except that we were now on the other side. Looking at the wonderful maps of Tokyo City Atlas: A Bilingual Guide (you remember I recommended it before!) shows that we wasted time and money taking the subway. All these stations are so close together that reaching the subway platforms within the stations involves more walking than just walking there on the surface! We just keep on learning.

We ended up in a restaurant behind a bakery that wasn’t involved with the bakery after all, and ate expensive Pizza instead of delicious Japanese food. That’s how tired and desperate we were.

Back at the hotel, the first thing we do is take a bath. Aaaah! This is great. Then Claudia takes a nap, and I start writing this post. Oh well.

Our plane tomorrow is at 10:25. Be there 2h early, taking the train takes at least ¾h, add ¼h waiting for the train, add at least ½h getting to the train station, ½h packing, ¼h getting up, and we end up setting the alarm clock for six o’clock.

Ugh.

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