Before taking a shower today I absentmindedly wore my glasses down to the bathroom and took advantage of the fact to weigh myself. Contrary to what I thought was happening, I’m actually down to 63 kilograms; which means I’ve lost about five pounds since coming to Japan this year and have reached a gully that even I don’t remember experiencing before. All through high school and college I seemed to weigh as much as 150 (when living the “fat” life in Seattle) and as little as 143 (during my crazy work months at Carnegie Mellon). I guess this new record is due in part to the stress and poor sleeping habits I’ve acquired in the last four-six weeks. I take some solace that what I do consume is a fairly good balance of vegetables, bread and low-fat meats and tea. My only vice is the once-or twice weekly drinking excursion with a choice partner in crime. It’s probably pretty stupid that I check the shape of my abs at least every other day. Anyway…
So today I decided I needed to take advantage of the good weather and my spirit and go outside. And go outside I did. Got a shower, got some Subway, watched a couple episodes of TNG, and hit the road on two Hawkins at 2:00. That was six hours and a considerable distance ago. Quantitatively, I walked for a little over four hours with perhaps four or five two-minute breaks. Judging by my stride and that the average person walks roughly four miles an hour, I’d say I must of covered 16-20 miles (+54 photographs and one video of a rooster in a pet shop window). I was just wandering mostly with the occasional checking of the sun to make sure I was heading in a net south-by-southeast direction. I caught glimpses of places I’d been before, but for the most part navigated entirely new territory.
I started at my home in Sendagaya and took the pictures of the rebel vine I mentioned yesterday, and then worked my way SSE to One’s Diner, an American-style burger establishment that is amazingly open until at least 1:00a on a Sunday night despite being in pretty much the middle of nowhere. From here I struck due east under an ivy-dripping overpass that has always fascinated me. On the other side was a quite artfully done series of graffiti that I think I’ll enjoy working with in Photoshop quite a bit. But for now, here is a small sample of the original.
My MP3 player and Tiesto died shortly after while photographing a particularly decrepit-looking apartment building. I thought for sure the battery meter was nearly full when I left the house, but this was the same charge that got me through over two hours of train rides to Chiba and Kawasaki the weekend before.
From there I continued east through Jingu-gaien and caught the southeast corner of snazzy Aoyama. About three quarters of the way to Akasaka I turned a sharp due south and headed through the rather large Aoyama Cemetery. I’m not sure if it’s irreverant to view and photograph the burial places of a culture not my own, but I was feeling exceptionally curious and taking a line from Star Trek II thought “the way in which one faces death is at least as important as the way in which one faces life.” I was amazed and sobered by the varied condition the graves were kept in. Some were meticulously manicured with all of the organic elements fresh and vibrant, while others were littered with overgrown weeds, decayed flowers and loose rocks. I suppose those that remember the dead, even they themselves pass away after time, and there comes a point where no one is left to care for their memorial.
It smelled heavily of incense and sweet flowers, and seemed appropriately quiet even though a maze of small roads cut through the canopy of trees. At first I felt sorry to see a lonely cat sitting by a grave, but after a few minutes I discovered that the place was in fact crawling with them…black cats, white cats, calico cats…cats alone, cats in pairs. The two things common between all of them were the unkempt fur and a look of distrust behind tired eyes. They weren’t defensively hostile when I beckoned to them, but they all had their comfort zones that eventually I would transgress to send them trotting behind a bush or vase. On my way out I passed an old man and woman with a small shopping cart opening pungent cans of tuna for a small audience of starved guests.
Somehow I came out of south end of the cemetery and got turned around, completely missing Roppongi (where I thought I was heading) and cut through Nishi-azabu back west into Hiroo, just north of Tengenji. Along the way I passed a large number of bars, pizza parlors and Chinese restaurants (all of which were closed since it was hardly four). I wish I could visit all these charming establishments. The droves of chain restaurants akin to Applebee’s, Red Robin and TGIFriday’s have _not_ yet set in here, so virtually every watering hole is bubbling with effervescant personality [and bad spelling. If I had 1000 yen for every time I’ve had Itarian food in the last month…]. One dark store in particular drew my attention as the setting sun was caught off the glistening, decapitated bodies of two dozen roast (what I assume were) ducks. As is my nature, I also stopped in a used furniture shop and coveted the rows of impeccably well-kept chairs, couches and coffee tables. I dream so often of having a spacious ultra-hip condominium filled with late 70s and 80s western furniture, lovingly maintained for my lanky frame. But, unfortunately most of the pieces in these kind of stores carry price tags of a month’s rent or more, so building the perfect swellegent digs will just have to wait until I win the lottery (after I start playing it of course).
Continually avoiding the signs for Shibuya I made my way west-by-southwest into the eastern side of Ebisu, at which point I got it into my head I was going to walk to Shinagawa (partly because it seemed like a far way south to be proud of reaching, and partly because I figured that was almost halfway to Mikiko’s place in Kawasaki, so I could give her a call when I got there and tell her I was in the area). With a firm destination in sight, I picked up the pace slightly and did my best to keep due south. However, the snaking train lines and narrow side streets led me into more switchbacks, greatly slowing down my progress. Always the apartment window-shopper, after reading several featured advertisements, I started thinking 150,000 yen (1300 USD) a month isn’t so bad for two little rooms in the foreigner-friendly Ebisu.
Eventually at dusk I came to Meguro (which had some nasty hills that reminded me of the northwest corner of Seattle). The houses here were oddly large for being inside the Yamanote line and had a warm, friendly, yuppie feeling that reminded me of my ‘hometown’ Kizu in Nara. Mothers walked chatting, while their young children struggled to keep up on colorful bicycles with training wheels.
From there I left the inviting residential areas with the fading sunlight and followed the Yamanote line more or less past Gotanda to Osaki. Not an overly impressive section of town, but still, I was satisfied to find several more bouquets of shopping centers and amusement areas. It seems you never have to go far in Tokyo to find something interesting to do. After reaching Osaki eki, I got seriously wound up due to a vast jungle of crumbling warehouses, factories and train tracks. I’m not sure if I felt lonely or slightly scared in the gloomy morass of rust that slowly crept up on me. Suddenly buildings were low and wide, and every venue that seemed the best path to walk looked moderately dangerous. Even the previously blue and cloudless sky had somehow become brooding and overcast without my notice. There was one point where I went through a series of small tunnels with no shoulder, though the signs outside indicated walking through was not an unheard of possibility.
I crossed the dark green Meguro-gawa several times before discovering at roughly 5:40 that I had gone too far south and was nearing the bay. The Yamanote line actually does a hairpin between Osaki and Shinagawa, and I had to cut sharply NNE a few more kilometers following the Keikyu line (quite the opposite direction I wanted to go had I been actually travelling to Kawasaki) until I got to JR Shinagawa. It was now quite dark and the only light that met my eyes was a strangely unsecure-looking import car showroom that had about half a dozen highly polished late 80s Ferraris for sale.
I called Mikiko a couple times but her phone was off so I left a message and after a quick (and easy) debate about whether to go to Shinjuku or Shibuya and get in trouble, I got on the Yamanote line and fell half-asleep until arriving back home at Yoyogi (15 minutes by train to bee-line the previous four hours’ wanderings). Despite being numb and a little worn out I felt quite satisfied having seen the a wide swawth of Tokyo’s boroughs…posh department stores, quaint restaurants, cozy homes, barren train yards, and exhausted industrial monoliths; all with my own two feet.
After that, a beer (in a bottle!) an another episode of TNG to catch my breath brought me back to the taxing (but necessary) task of recording this. If only my thoughts could be directly converted to text! Maybe I should get an audio blog like Wil Wheaton. Then I can just talk to myself (which I usually start doing anyway after walking or driving for more than three hours).
[It has taken two hours to write, link, and edit this post!!]