Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Saga Continues

I Love my brother to death. But if he stays out here much longer, I just may see that day a little sooner than anticipated! We have been going hard every night. Endulging in Adult Beverageness and soaking in as much as possible.

The beauty of Tokyo is it just doesn't stop. There's always a place to hang and always some people ready to get wild for the night. Whether that entails only 4 people in a club and a DJ to ourselves, or wall to wall folks, there is no shortage of opportunity to be out til sunrise.

In contrast to life in America, when you catch the train here at 5am you don't find winos passed out drunk on the seats, but rather suited up salary men. It's truly a phenomenon. There are 2 waves of alcoholism which present themselves on the train. The 1st being "Last Train." This ranges from anywhere between 11:45-12:30 depending on one's destination. It is very common to see trains packed to the brim and many a salaryman in rare form. The 2nd wave is "1st Train" which usually starts off around 4:30-5:00. This one is guaranteed to be entertaining! Japanese, being as humble and mild mannered as they are, certainly come out of their shells at 5AM and this is always a sight to behold. For me it's quite refreshing, because it reminds a lot of New York in terms of volume and absurdity. A shy New York that is!

Interestingly enough, nightlife is catered to the train schedule. So there are places that are targetted toward last train, and other events for 1st train. Staff transport also plays a role, hence, many a restaurant does not hesitate to PUT YOU OUT in order for them to wrap up business and get all the employees a chance to get out in time to catch their trains'.

Being the die-hard baseball fan that my brother is, we headed out to Roppongi last night to catch the All-Star Game on tape delay. Afterward, we sat out on a staircase sipping Chu-hi's and overseeing the games of the street as they played themselves out right before our eyes. I tried to convince the hookers walking by that my brother was in dier need of a "Massaji!" But he just never seemed to cooperate.

Needless to say, by the time we awoke this morning, neither of us had much energy or ambition to do anything. However, with Bub's days slowly winding down, I tried to light a fire and get us up and out at around 5:30. The move was forced. And it flowed as such for the next 2 hours as we dragged our feet through Shibuya.

But just when the night had seemed it was all going to waste, a glimmer of hope presented itself. Some friends of mine mentioned a festival jumping off in Iidabashi. We maintained our groggy state until we knew were nearing the grounds. Magically, we both took that breath of cleansing, where everything within said, "Alright, we're gonna give this one last shot.... ALIVE!" And just like that, we pepped up. Convo got lively. And so did the environment surrounding us.

Both of us had "Wow!" on repeat for the next 10 minutes as we made our way toward Yasukuni Shrine. There were endless lanterns, and steam filled food stands wafting a myriad of aromas on both sides of the walkway. There were some of the typical American staples of a festival, i.e. Cotton Candy, and Candy Apples. However, their version of candy apples were miniature. But such is the way in Japan. As for the rest of the vendors, they were, shall I say, Exotic. Fish on a stick getting cooked by hot coals. Some waffle balls thing, that smelled delicious. You could catch your own goldfish with a flimsy net that you were only allowed to use until it broke. And an array of other entertaining sights that each captivated both my brother and I time and time again.

As we neared the center of the grounds, there was a pavilion of sorts. Round in shape, with a statue's foundation shooting up the middle of it. A group of Japanese people were dancing around the pavilion as music played. This was accompanied by some well adorned people who poured their hearts into a traditional drum. There was one drum and approximately 8 drummers. Each drummer rotated mid song without missing a beat. It was a thing of beauty. This was without question the most authentic Japanese feeling I've experienced since coming here. The majority of women wore kimonos and the dance was a seemingly simple combination of gestures, claps and steps which flowed ever so pleasantly. Bubba studied their movements and later confessed to be prepping himself to join the outer g of group of people who were circling aound the pavilion. It was such a culturally beautiful sight to see people of all ages swaying around and very light heartedly moving together to traditional sounds. Bubba and I simultaneously acknowledged how happy we were that we dragged ourselves outta the house.

Eventually, we made our way up to the actual shrine. It was an impressive sight for sure. But the magnitude of the festival and setting gained significance when 2 japanese girls stopped to explain the history behind the shrine. It is a WWII Memorial. The place where the top generals who perished in the war are either burried or at least commemorated. We also learned that the countless lanterns were in memory of each person who passed. It was powerful. Especially when I compare it with the anticlimactic exercises we have in America to commemorate our fallen heroes. Needless to say, this left quite an impression. One I'll savor for as long as I can.

And day by day, I continue to discover more about this majestic country. I must confess, having my brother here to share it with me has not only fueled the entire journey, but also ignited a passion to see and do more with my time here. "That's what friends are fooooooor!"


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