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a mixed bag

Oho! The desk person my first night here had said they were out of rooms with Internet, but I later noticed a cat5e jack in my room (with protective cover). Did I have wired Internet? I didn't ask. I did just buy a cat6 cable, and voila. Net access with A/C, not out in an alley, and subject to the hostel wireless disappearing, as it did just now while I was talking with a Slovenian girl. Downside, of course, is that I can now hide out in my room, without the opportunities of meeting gaijin from being outside a hostel in an alley.

Today's main themes were "OMG it's hot" and "why is my backpack so heavy?" I went east, across the Sumida river, though first I got some butter chicken curry at an Indian take out. That was decent -- not a lot of chicken by American standards but that's okay, and excellent naan, almost sweet. I was eating it in a tiny park, bullied by pigeons. They were hopping up on the bench and sidling pretty close to me, save when I paid protection money by throwing a small scrap of bread away. They were pretty slow to get out of the way when I threatened them, I even paid light contact a couple of times without trying; if I wanted to I could probably have severely hurt one. Someone should, to remind them to fear humans...

Anyway, I crossed the river, and had wondered if I'd ever see Bon festival stuff, because it's happening like, now, supposedly. BOOM BOOM CLANG BOOM... a small procession came up behind me, escorted by police. People in old hats and robes, purple flag, instruments. I followed them to a park and temple, where they did stuff, then dispersed. "Bon festival des ka?" No one knew much English, but I got "peace Buddha" which I've heard of, and am not sure is the same thing. I could look it up, but lazy. Anyway, cool, whatever it was.

Around the park... lots of cicadas. Possibly 17 year ones given the holes in the ground and the stupidity. Now, cicadas and Japan now have a certain association in our anime club, thanks to Higurashi no Naku Kori ni; I can do a high-pitched "chich chich chi chi chee chee cheee" and creep out most of the members.

These are not those cicadas. These are the loud buzzers we get in Bloomington; they sound like President Aria if anything, but mostly they sound like a buzz. Thematically they sound like cats in heat, or the squirrels in the walls of my house as I grew up, "kya kya Kya Kya KYA KYA KYA". (I do a great fucking squirrel impression in person.) Like, say, a bunch of giant stupid insects trying enthusiastically, and by the sound of it mostly unsuccessfully, to mate. That may or may not be less creepy than a bunch of mysteriously murderous schoolgirls.

Anyway, I have photos, some with my finger in them, so show how big the things are. Also how placid, most bugs big enough to notice such a thing wouldn't let a finger hang out that close to them.

But oh yeah, hot. Atsui fucking da. I'd been out for like an hour and was most of the way through my liter of water. Yay for Japan's vending machines: I bought another half liter. Then I found a map, and realized the building that had scared me off was a museum to the Kanto Earthquake, so I went in, partly to look and partly for A/C.

First thing of note: furigana -- pronunciation -- on all the kanji in the exhibits. Because while in the West a 3 year old can learn the alphabet and basically be fully literate for whatever language they know, in Japan... not so much. You can be a bright 10 year old, or maybe even 15 for all I know, and still have trouble with the newspaper, never mind old kanji.

I've got photos of typewriters, one of which did not survive the fire well. And of a paper lantern, which did. And a bust of a Western woman, which just seemed odd.

The park also has a small concert bowl full of flowers, with musical notes cut into the flowers, and it's a Tokyo Bombing Peace Memorial. I was randomly having uncharitable thoughts about a Peace Please Don't Bomb Us Again museum... then on the second floor of the quake museum I saw photos of planes dropping bombs.

Well, following the monks had taken me past the sumo and Tokyo museums, so I went back and found the latter, and wandered through the gift shops, and talked to a gaijin who said Kyoto is even hotter, being in a bowl The permanent exhibition is supposed to be good but at this point theme 2 kicked in, of my back killing me. I guess 1.5 liters of watter, 2 pound subnotebook, big Japanese textbook (in case I parked in a cafe, not that I've done that ever here yet), and umbrella, plus sundries, was too much for a non-Marine with suboptimal backpack. So I retreated home to rest and shower and stop melting.

Then later back out, for food, and wandering back alleys. There are in fact parts of Tokyo where nothing happens, at least at night. (I think yesterday I found the parts where nothing happens ever, but those weren't so central.) It's odd though: dark abandoned street, non-Japanese danger instincts blaring, then there's an open hair salon. And after that, a French restaurant. I just went to a donburi place though, then wandered some more until I found Ai's sushi place and Yodebashi Camera, where I got the LAN cable. They had an English voiceover talking about their great brands and discounts for foreigners, especially Chinese foreigners. Unlike Customs signs, the people involved actually knew English.

And finally back home, via snacks for later and the alley Internet, where I met Slovenian girl.



Damien Sullivan

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