My first two trips to Japan, back in the 80’s were largely mindless. Most of the time I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. Let’s not even talk about meaning. I bought the cat, above, because I liked it. I didn’t know anything about Japanese art or folk art. I did know about western art, and I liked the cat. It’s been my favorite possession ever since. It bothered me that I did not know where the flea market was where I bought the cat. Each time I’ve been here since I’ve looked for it. I had a vivid memory of the physical space but no knowledge of it. Today I finally found it: the flea market at Yasukuni shrine. When I bought the cat the market was held on the paved driveway leading up to the shrine. Today the market is off to one side and cars are parked in the driveway. I went with the vague hope I might find another cat, but, of course, there wasn’t any. There was some interesting stuff including lots of guitars and taiko drums but I didn’t find anything interesting enough to buy.
As I entered the shrine area I saw people photographing a tree. At first I thought it might be a tree that survived the bombing of Tokyo, which was possible from the look of the tree. Then I found out it was the cherry tree used to determine the dates when Tokyo celebrates the cherry blossom season.
Often things are not what they seem. I found out about another of those mysteries later in the day.
I was looking for breakfast from the time I left the hotel. I walked all around the Tokyo train station and didn’t find anything I wanted to eat. I walked around Yasukuni looking for something to eat. I didn’t visit the actual shrine or the museum, which I have mixed feelings about, because I was looking for something to eat. I found several interesting looking places outside of the shrine but they didn’t open until 11 am and I didn’t feel like waiting. I got back on the subway and went to the Tokyo International Forum for another flea market.
This time I bought an obi I’ll cut up for a book cover. The price was marked 1000 Yen.. I didn’t argue; just gave the vendor a 1000 Yen note. She packaged the obi for me and after she handed it to me she gave me a 100 Yen coin. We both laughed. I guess I should have bargained, but this was more fun. Only in Japan.
Still looking for something to eat I walked a short distance to a JNTO Information office. I had two questions, neither of which got good answers. First I wanted to know why seemingly all the young women in Tokyo were lined up outside of the Forum, occasionally moving in great bunches. No good answer to that one. Second, I wanted to know if I could access a wi fi service on the train for one or two months. No answer but a referral to a service that might help. I find I can’t get along without the phone, even though I have no one to call. It’s all that information it gives me. Standing there and talking I got an answer to something I thought about but hadn’t asked because I thought I knew the answer. About one in four or five people here are wearing those white face masks and an equal number sound like they ought to be wearing them. I thought they were all sick with colds or flu and I would probably be next. I started compulsively washing my hands. Well, they are not all sick; they are allergic to cedar pollen and this is the time of year. I am relieved, but who would have thought.
After the info center I finally found a place to eat. Fortified, I got back on the train and went to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Again lots of that light green ground cover, but a great variety of trees and some very nice views. I also found out it may be normal for everything to look dry at this time of year. The rains don’t come for another couple of months. That bit is still bothering me.