Thursday, January 10, 2008

Day 4, Tokyo: The Wind-Up Fish Chronicle

Thanks to the wondrous effects of ongoing jetlag, me and Dan wake up at 6.20am. We decide to head over to Tsukiji fish market. It's the world's biggest wholesale fish and seafood market; 2,300 tonnes of fish are delivered here each day. (Dan: "Wow, there really are plenty of fish in the sea.")

This means two things: one, you will see so much fish that you will feel a like everyone is staring at you because you're not a fish. Two, you will have to keep your wits about you to prevent yourself from getting run over by one of the many forklift trucks which zoom around trying to knock people over.

Once you've trawled (ha!) around the market, you can go to one of the nearby sushi restaurants and eat fish that's only been killed about three minutes ago, ie fresh as you fucking like. This is exactly what we do.

Then it's off towards Ginza, and everything starts getting a bit flash. We go through skyscrapery bit Shiodome, which I initially pronounce à la Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, but is in fact supposed to be said "she-oh-doh-meh". Stupid gaijin.

"This is the heart of Ginza," I announce to Dan, reading from the guidebook. "This is Ginza Yon-chome crossing – apparently it 'often features in films and documentaries as the epitome of this overcrowded yet totally efficient city'." We gaze up at all the tall buildings and imposing signs. It certainly is very impressive.

We walk a block along to the next crossing. I spot the Wako building. "Oh, hang on," I say. "I got it wrong. This is the heart of Ginza."

In the afternoon we visit the weird 'n' wonderful 'n' weird Ghibli Museum in Mitaka – a shrine to the animation of Hayao Miyazaki, most famous for the Oscar-winning Spirited Away. The information leaflet I'd got on booking the tickets promised that the design of the building would be "somplicated and fully realized, that it is much more than just a draft" (sic). It also explained that the shop featured "quality products and not cheap trinkets or souvenirs, at prices reflecting Hayao Miyazaki's sense that art is more important than commerce". Easy, tigers!

Despite the seemingly passive-aggressive attitude, the place turns out to be brilliant. There's a short film made specially for the museum, featuring flying cat buses and Miyazaki favourite Totoro, these amazingly detailed moving models showing how animation works, and some stuff about giant Russian bears that didn't make much sense, but was still touched by the hand of Hayao, and therefore ace.

Back in Shinjuku in the evening, we meet up with my friend Eli, who is on crutches and walks at about 0.5 kmph. As we settle down for some food, she explains some of Japan's mysteries to us ("Why did we have to buy an extra ticket on the tube when we changed lines?", "What am I eating?" etc). I wish we could keep her!

Then, hold on, I see myself eating noodles in a small cafe-restaurant in Tokyo, laughing with old friends, while Dylan's 'Desolation Row' plays on the stereo. I'm in a Murakami novel!


Red said...

In your picture the Ginza Yon-chome crossing is spookily bereft of pedestrians, though!

That's the one that features in that Japanese video by The Killers, isn't it?

Will said...

Ah - that's because Japanese people NEVER EVER cross until the green man is showing, even if the road is completely empty. More on that later, possibly.

No idea about the Killers...