September 19, 2006

Japan, Little Towns, Part 2

Hammer and I finished checking up on his shop, and proceeded to get around to some more errands.
I was happy to go along with, because I got to see more of the Japanese life than I could have on my own. Plus, we had a great time talking and catching up with everything we've been up to these last few years.
We went to another small town to hit the bank and grab some food. There were old buildings and temples popping up when you least expect it, which was cool. Here's a little park across the bank. At this point, we hadn't eaten all day, and it was already late Tuesday afternoon. After what seemed like two days eating only airplane and airport food, I needed something tasty!

Paused to snap a picture of this guy at the bank. Japanese fashion can be a little strange at times. . . . but they really get into it. In fact, I've never been anywhere were people are so "uniform" oriented. I mean, you see race fans at the track, and maybe they have a t-shirt and a hat of their favorite rider, but in Japan, I saw whole families decked out from head to toe, socks, custom shoes, special leathers for their kids, the works! It was insane. And it goes beyond racefans. If you see a traveller, they might have everything travel related, like special travel shoes that slip on and off for convenience. I don't know, it's tough to explain, but I'll just say that they really get into character in Japan.

We drove around a little bit and found a tiny, hole in the wall spot. Hammer called it "Japanese fast food". I asked him what he meant, and he meant simply that it was instant food, not the American junk food. He told me these places are getting pretty rare, because bigger chain restuarants and fancier places are moving in, and that the old shops (this one had no seating, just a couple chairs outside) are dying out. Of the few that are left, the workers are the original ones who opened the place, 30 or 40 years ago. Suffice it to say, the food was grubbin'! Noodles, sausage, and egg, with - GASP - mayonnaise! I tried taking some pictures of the food, but I was so hungry they all came out blurry. Oh well! The food was good, the company was great, and what more could you ask for than some authentic Japanese livin'?

We decided to take a break from the errands and go for a nice walk through some of the older areas of the city, checking out the architecture and styles that have been around for centuries. I really get a kick out of seeing original examples, where people have laughed and cried, where life has happened.
This is a typical example of a "louvered siding", which must have taken a lot of work before wood-working machines were around.

How long has this place been around?

Or this place? While the day started off sunny and hot, by the late afternoon is was gray and beginning to drizzle. I didn't mind, it just made taking pictures more difficult because of all the white light from the clouds.

This building has seen a lot, and judging from the marks of it's neighbors, it has been around.

This is pretty neat - these vending machines are everywhere in Japan, offering coffees, teas, juices and sodas. I mean everywhere. Some sell beer, depending on the location, but I mainly used it for coffee fixes. Prices were pretty good, too, and Hammer pointed out that they make Japan the most convenient country in the world, haha.

Seeing the old buildings, and the mix of modern power lines overhead was pretty neat. It totally fit in with my image of how life and modernism keep moving in, and when there's no time or space to hide it all underground, it goes on up.

After eating our small snack and walking around in the city, we ventured to an old road, which has been used to travel to and from Tokyo for a thousand years, maybe more. Lining the road were grand old homes, hundred of years old and fronted by enormous gates. Some of the gates had built in apartments for the servants, which was perfect because then they could also guard the front door.

A look past some of the entrances revealed many beautiful gardens.

More gates. As a dear old friend told me, you can't take a bad picture in Japan. Well, I know I managed to take some rotten ones, but the good ones far outweigh them. These structures really make me smile, and I think real history can still be found on the streets, and not just in a museum. Speaking of museums, we'll be visiting the Honda Collection Hall in a future post. Stay tuned!

Peaceful. What a place to sit and think. Japan is probably the closest I've felt to being back in Hawaii. The people, the vibe, it all felt similar to home. This probably sounds strange, but it was almost like I was meant to be there. Almost. There were also times in Japan where I felt completely alienated, utterly without a voice. To the four people who straight up ignored me on the outskirts of Tokyo when I was lost (despite my being polite and asking for directions in Japanese), well, I don't have time to think negative thoughts. Rock on!

Last garden shot for now. It was getting dark and time to start thinking about the night. . . .

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