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November 8 Sumida

Last Day - hourly notes. Ginza, Ningyo-cho neighborhood and a Sumida River "cruise"

Much as I'd like to, I find it difficult to record events in that staccato, Quilleresque style, punctuated with the hhmm's as they happen - probably because I don't wear a watch. Sometimes I note down hourly thoughts and happenings, however; and that's what I did my last full day in Japan.
Coffee in the 80-year-old Kaisei-ken teahouse, looking up at its ceiling fan, one of Tokyo's originals. Now it seems they sell more coffee than tea, but here was where they allegedly served tea for the first time made with roasted tea leaves - "black" tea, as opposed to the Japanese "green" tea, which is brewed with leaves that have been steamed.
Ginza - Murazan bookstore browsing and postcard buying - this is a big bookstore in the Ginza across Chuo-dori from the central Takashimaya department store. Just up the street a couple blocks is the geographic center of Tokyo, Nihombashi or Japan Bridge, the same river crossing depicted in the number one of Hiroshige's 100 Views of Edo.
A lunch of Una-ju (broiled eel on a bed of rice, more info here) at one of the restaurants on the top floor of Takashimaya department store.
Shopping at Takashimaya - thought they might have good yukata but what was there was ¥5000 and not all that special so I passed. Also wanted hanafuda cards which I found in the toys & games section, near the ancient old elevators. A distracting video was playing on a monitor in this section, "Space Battleship Yamato," and along a wall was arrayed blisterpacks of not just Ultraman action figures - in fact, everybody in the Ultra family was available. (Ultra Mother? What is this stuff?)
Walking along back in Ningyo-cho near the hotel I came across a fabric store with some marked-down stock on tables set up out front. I found a quite nice yukata for just ¥2000 - size large, even.
At the Sumisho hotel, in my room, a break. Then back outside to explore the local shopping street action.
This was great: fish-shaped tai-yaki pastry from a storefront takeout on the street called Amazake Yokucho. Intrigued by the up-front cooker's animated motions, I watched as he slathered oil, batter and then sweet an paste into one of his cast-iron mold-tools, which he sealed up and added to the queue cooking over charcoal, spinning 'em occasionally; then he took up the one at the far end of the queue and opened it, ejecting the big cookie out onto the cooling rack. I wanted one of those; the chunky proprietress tried to sell me another from a batch cooked previously but relented before my non-verbal gesture of assertion, and I got the fresh one. Nummy!
Downstairs to the subway, to ride a couple stops back to Asakusa, the nakemise and the big red "Thunder Gates" at the entrance to this ancient shrine and temple compound. Took this picture of the Sensoji temple at dusk, its dark shape in silhouette behind all the lanterns. Walked east, away from this sacred area, towards the river, through evening Japanese city blocks, the exotic environment taken for granted by now, after two weeks of conditioning. Along Sumida riverbank, I stroll through light rain, protected by my umbrella, moving upstream to the pedestrian-only X-shaped Sakurabashi bridge; then back down, passing alongside the homeless' blue tarp encampments lining the river's edge, along the guardrails. The lower reaches were bare, and I saw why: the wakes from passing river traffic sloshed up over the edge.
Revolving kaiten sushi in a place conveniently pierside, just before river-bus boarding.

The boat had a recorded voice describing each of the many bridges we passed beneath. Two of them I liked especially, one marked with lights of a distinctive magenta-purple color, the other outlined with blue lights and also sheathed in translucent green, a covering scaffold like it was being restored.

After docking at Hinode Pier, joined the rush-hour throngs streaming into and out of Hamamatsucho station on the Yamanote line. A couple transfers later I was back in the neighborhood of my hotel.
Back in the hotel room, watching zany TV and writing.
Ningyo-cho neighborhood walkabout, spotting some places to check out tomorrow before mid-day airport departure.
Pizza at the Atomic Cafe, of all places. Had a draft Asahi with, and became pleasantly woozy. If anything, I've learned this trip the generic international designation for the style of pizza I crave: Neapolitini. (Which means thin crust with cheese, tomato sauce and anchovy - it's the original pizza.)
Staggering around due to the alcohol, did some C-Store snack shopping, then back to the hotel just before midnight.
Watching the television and packing: more strangeness on-screen, then a commercial of the bi-racial black/white Ayumi Hamasaki "LOVEppears" poster I'd been seeing everywhere. Her CD might be a good souvenir, unfortunately it won't be released until the day after I depart.

Next: Narita

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