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Published: August 27th 2017
It's coming to an end. We've started making lists of what we need to do and buy in order to leave the apartment pretty much as we found it. But on reflection, it's such a tiny place that the cleaning surely can't take as much time as we might have expected, and if we do a bit of cleaning and laundry and tidying and shopping each day now, then the final day should be easy, surely...?
We brought a list from home of things we wanted to do and see while we were here, and last night we checked to see if we have achieved our goals yet. We found two destinations that we hadn't yet done: a "downtown" museum in Ueno Park; and FujiFilm Square, a museum/exhibition of cameras and photography. They're in the same general direction from Chiba, but not really close to each other, so we thought we'd do one each day, and that would still leave time for unforeseen emergencies at the apartment.
First, however, today was Stephen's Dad's birthday (he's 84, you know) and Stephen has been checking the calendar all holiday to make sure he didn't miss the date. A Skype call was
Shinobazu Pond, Ueno Park
Huge pond entirely covered with lotuses. the Shitamachi Museum is over the back,with the checquer-board pattern of tiles on the wall
arranged for 9.30 this morning, but that didn't quite work out as planned, and the call finally connected a little after 10. I also wanted to have another bash at calling complete strangers in the hope that they might know an old fencing acquaintance whom we met first in Australia and then by chance (!) in VN. I already tried to do this and failed last week, but now I had a new idea, and I tried it, and it worked, and I got a different email address for him. I dashed an email off to him, so if he gets that in time, we might get to meet tomorrow. (Semi-spoiler alert: he didn't reply today.)
Of the yet-to-do plans, we decided to go to Ueno today, because we might visit Shiba Park Hotel tomorrow to try to see the GM, and the other place is in that neck of the woods, so we can do them together. Ueno has a huge park, with a zoo that was famous in the 70's and early 80's for having two pandas on loan from China, and the Japanese obsession with them, rather than the pandas themselves, was news in other countries.
(Maybe the pandas had a baby? Or was it the fact that they didn't get it on that was also news?) I remember visiting the zoo in 1983, and I saw the pandas from behind a crowd, I think, but the other things I remember about the zoo are that the polar bears just had an enclosure that was iceberg-shaped concrete painted white, and they had a sheep in the zoo. I lost all respect for it then. But, we weren't going to the zoo today. We were going to the "Downtown Museum." I've never been sure what 'downtown' means in English, but the exact translation of it in Japanese has associations of the poorer end of town, the small shops and the lesser merchants. I had read that it was a depiction of Tokyo in the Edo Era, which was from the beginning of the 17th century to 1868, but it was actually set later than that, and showed the Edo (the old name for Tokyo) of the Taisho era, 1912-26. Well okay, it was still an interesting piece of history. The displays were nicely done, actually: a couple each of houses and shops set up so that visitors
Photo of photographer taking photo outside photography exhibition. Couldn't take photos inside, so I took one outside, and maybe you can see in a little.
could go in and sit and touch the items. We joined another NZ couple in listening to a volunteer guide for about half an hour as we went round the houses. And then there was another floor that was more like a normal museum with more items in cabinets to look at. A nice little museum, and the ground floor at least had some good English explanation pamphlets for each room. What was fascinating about the tenement street display and the guide's explanation, though, was how similar it was to so many Vietnamese houses still - tiny houses, one or two rooms for a family, squatting in front of a pot over a fire to prepare food. The Japanese seem to do storage better though: lots more cunning ways to hide things, where as the VNese seem to just pile things on other things.
We emerged from the museum and looked over a huge lotus-covered pond for a bit, and walked around some of its walkways, before we left the park. We'd had lunch already, in the walk from the station to finding the museum so now it was time for a cuppa. We saw a couple of coffee
Soba Shop dinner
Front: fried pork cutlet; back: fried prawns
shops, but decided to walk around some back streets to see if there was anything a bit more to our liking. Instead we found we were in a girlie bar area. It's the first place we've been where they have been so obvious and blatant. I supposed places like Shibuya and Shinjuku had spme, just not all bunched in together like this. And then we found an art supply shop, with a few baskets of things outside that were worth buying as gifts for a couple of friends in VN, so it was a delightfully odd to be in this lovely overstuffed shop, lined with hundreds of jars of powdered pigment, between rows of shops of sleaze. Still no coffee shops though, and when we returned the earlier ones were even less to our liking, so we had a rethink. It was still only 3 pm. What if we did the FujiFilm Square today? We could get there in 20 minutes or so. That would free up tomorrow in case we hear back from Mr Nagai.
Done. Walk to a subway station, travel 8 stops, walk again. We would be going to Roppongi, an area known for its clubs, bars and restaurants. Maybe we'd stay on till dinnertime, who knows? We came up from the underground, and had about a 400m walk to theFujiFilm place, but on the way we found a coffee shop, so we had our overdue cuppa in a cafe in the premises of a Mercedes dealership. This is an upmarket area. In the time we were sitting at the table outside, we saw two Ferraris, a Lamborghini and a Ducati drive past, as well as several more quotidien Mercs, Audis and Lexi. And also very arty. Lots of artsy-looking people, architecturally-designed blocks of apartments, and several galleries in just a few hundred metres.
FujiFilm Square is not a bad way to spend 45 minutes or so: a man was giving a guided tour in Japanese to a group of people, so we couldn't quite get to some of the historical displays simply because they were standing in the way, but there were several photography exhibitions to wander around: two (presumably famous) Japanese photographers' landscapes, one display of some competition-winning photos, and another with a theme of Japanese festivals. Unfortunately, and ironically, no photos were allowed to be taken in the building.
Home again by subway and our normal train. It was too early to be bothered hanging around Roppongi waiting to see the nightlife. Stephen had had the idea during the day that the old-fashioned noodle shop round the road from the apartment might make a good video, so he wanted to get back there to see if he could film: maybe some customers, the cook working in the kitchen, maybe making the noodles in the morning. It was a good place for us to go for dinner anyway, so after a bit of a sitdown at home we were off again, for about a 7-minute walk. There was a big party of customers already there, but we were welcomed back. We asked the lady about videoing, and she went to ask the boss, and meanwhile the other group of customers also got involved in the question as to whether the foreigners should or could do some filming, and I could hear that they were getting quite the wrong end of the stick, so I went up and explained what it was all about. The customers at least seemed to think it was a good idea, but in the end the boss said No. We need people who are in the videos to sign a form saying they allow us to use their image and they won't come and ask for money in the future, but the boss didn't want to sign anything, so that was that. So we just had our dinner (big and tasty, with some very
hot mustard) and came home.
Watched some YouTube, and did this. Another day closer to the end. Yes, I know, every day has been closer to the end, but from here I can hear it coming.
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