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The thrilling saga of my trip to Japan continues! For those who care, this entry is about 2008 Aug 24. I gave that date in Japanese order, which is similar to programmer ordering -- it's easier to sort files with dates in them if the most significant digits come first. European is reverse, 24 Aug 2008. American, Aug 24, 2008, is screwball.

I went back to Harajuku, for more cosplay watching. The weather was the same was the previous Sunday: relatively cool with lots of clouds and light drizzle. That didn't stop people, of whom there were a lot more than the previous Sunday. Yet more dance troups in their matching uniforms and set routines, at 3 if not 4 or more venues, I later found from walking around. My tastes run more toward traditional or pseudo-traditional music, but the exotic enchantment of the most traditional Chinese scales were no match for the universal institution of the dance coordinator, some guy (always a guy) bellowing into a microphone every few seconds. "Hah! Huh! Yah! Yoh!" Magic comes, magic slinks away.

Street festival means street food; breakfast/brunch was my first yakitori (150 yen, battered meat on a stick), then okonomiyaki (500 yen, omelette thingy.) Language skills were mustered in the latter case. "Mayonnaise?" *shake head* "Japanese word nori?" "Hai." "Fish flakes?" "Chotto." I couldn't stop him from turning the sunny side egg over, though.

The bridge just south of the station has more of individual cosplayers and gothloli types, with their rolling suitcases, standing around to have photos taken of them. Note that I say "cosplayer" (costume player, for my less savvy readers) out of osmosis; I saw no one I could identify as a particular character from an anime or manga, though one girl's color scheme was suspicious.

As those things wound down, I followed crowds around, looking at the clothes, and spent some time in a shopping mall, the bottom floors of which were particularly catering to the elaborate fashionistas. Feet started to hurt (does two weeks of extended walking make feet tougher? Apparently not), I looked for a place to rest, but finding a seat in the cafes in the crowded alley-streets of Harajuku on a rainy Sunday is a fool's errand. I did see a manga/internet cafe but I don't know, something about the atmosphere inside was scary. Instead I took the train north a hop to Shinjuku, another big neighborhood on the west side of Tokyo. Which brings me to the other theme of the day: annoying transfers. Just getting to Harajuku was annoying, with me thinking I could hop down to a station and discovering a half-kilometer walk to the line I wanted -- right, not that far, but annoying when you don't anticipate it -- and getting out meant more long walks and going down two levels and I think I was hungry and crabby.

Then in Shinjuku station and attached mall I couldn't find guidance to the Shinjuku *line*. Circle M, yes, circle E, but not green circle with an S in it. Found a cafe, nursed a $4 iced mocha and played sudoku, and from the vantage happened to notice a sign pointing to the Toei Shinjuku. Still no circle S, but it's what I wanted.

But now that I was oriented, I decided to explore a bit more. Found a cheap place to eat, probably a bar snacks place? 320 yen for 3 gyoza, 2 fried chicken chunks, rice and miso soup. Then off toward Kabukicho to see what the red-light district looks like; word was it had been slapped down. The main streets were full of conventional nighttime entertainments and mixed crowds; the small streets seem to still have lots of strip clubs and what not, with Japanese guys guarding the entrances. Or standing in the middle of the street with no obvious association to anything. I'm not sure if they actually lure Japanese guys in; word is they keep gaijin guys out. I didn't test this. There were a few African guys who did try to lure me in. "Special for you! Free drinks!" sounds less special the second or third time you hear it. A Japanese woman on the sidewalk did offer me a massage.

Half an hour to find the subway once I wanted to get home; once again, the natives seemed somewhat ignorant about life beyond their own block or two. They'd point me to the JR Line, which wasn't what I wanted. 20 minutes to get home, across 7.5 km, which seems slow.

My meals might seem light but I think I wasn't that hungry. Might have had a cup o' noodles in the hotel room. Japan has a *lot* of variety of those, and the hot water carafe can serve for those as well as making tea.



Damien Sullivan

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