Just Another Tuesday January 6, 2004Posted by LHK in Japan.
I had a dream last night that I told everyone at work that I went into space above Funabashi (a town about 15 minutes away from here) and “orbited for a while.” They asked me what space was like, and I told them, “Very empty and boring.” I was only telling them this to upstage Eric, a co-worker of mine who has his doctorate in physics. In the dream, as in real life, we couldn’t figure out why he was teaching English instead of using his degree. In the dream, he told us, “Well, I lived the science life for a while, which was also the single life! But now that I’m trying out married life, I can’t live the science life anymore!” I’d like to know the real reason, though.
That was the first dream I remembered in over a week. Ack.
I had the day off today (Tuesday — the second day of my usual “weekend”), and I told my roommates and co-workers I was going to Odaiba, a town on the water with one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels, a “women’s theme park” called Venus Fort (as far as I’ve heard, it’s just a shopping plaza), and, today, the home of the annual Firemen’s Festival. But I didn’t feel like making the trip. Instead, I did 100 sit-ups (this is up from 25 on December 31), biked for an hour, and then took the train to Ueno, an area of town known for its museums and its mostly concrete park. My “outings,” once major events in themselves, are becoming less and less eventful. Tokyo hasn’t pulled a surprise on me in a few weeks now. I hadn’t explored Ueno before, but when I stepped out of the station, I knew exactly what to expect. Yahoo BB salesmen screaming into megaphones, seemingly speaking in tongues. Shops selling 1000 yen handbags printed with broken English. Department stores selling off pink wool skirts and puffy white faux fur-trimmed coats at their New Year’s sales. A Yoshinoya fast food joint on every corner. And me, always ducking into the Gap to hear familiar music (today: “Synchronicity,” by the Police!) and wander around racks of clothes that’ll actually fit. I continue to need this Western familiarity in Japan, even though Japan itself has become so familiar to me. I made it out of Gap without buying anything (I wasn’t much of a shopper at home, but there’s something in the air in Tokyo, whispering in every language that every person who enters the city limits should buy, buy, buy as much as possible), and then walked across the street to Ueno Park, where a makeshift city of dirty blue plastic tarps had been constructed behind the playground, and hunchbacked homeless men sat on swings between girls with pigtails and puffy lavendar coats.
The lake in the center of the park was swarmed with birds — seagulls, pigeons, ravens, and ducks. There was only one couple who’d been brave enough to rent a boat for the afternoon, and they were marooned in the center of the lake, surrounded by birds that looked as though they were ready to attack them Hitchcock-style. I tried not to watch. Ravens streaked past my head — they’re huge and black and often wake me up with their morning squawking. I can’t stand to look at them when I see them bouncing around garbage bins in my neighborhood, and yet here I was surrounded by twenty of them. I had to duck to make sure none of them hit me as they flew by.
It was clear that the birds were in charge of Ueno Park.
I sat down on a bench by the water and cautiously took out the maple crackers I’d bought at Muji (the Ikea of Japan. They have a characteristically well-organized snack department in each store). One hopeful and outgoing duck popped out of the water and waddled over to me, wandering back and forth in front of my bench as I ate my crackers, hoping for a handout. I wished the duck a pleasant evening in Japanese but decided against giving it one of my extra-sugary crackers (though Adam informed me on the phone this evening that ducks “are like garbage cans” in terms of what they can eat and could have easily stomached the sugar).
I think I am getting bored.
That seems like a crime here.
These last few days I’ve felt like I’m just biding my time until spring, when the cherry blossoms come out and when I’ll remember to bring my camera to Ueno Park. When I can quit wearing this black coat that I bought on such a whim I didn’t realize it was unflattering. When Adam will visit and we’ll go to Kyoto and Hiroshima and Japan will start surprising me again.
In other news, Belinda’s back in town. Her latest kick is trying to convince Kristy and me that we’re fat.