Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tokyo ni ikimashita!

Last month we went to Tokyo again, but we never blogged about it because we've been having internet problems and our connection's slowed down to a horrible impossible speed (oh no! my cola!). But Tokyo was really very fun, so let's just forgive and forget our tardiness and jump right on in there.

We left Sendai on Waitangi Day up to our shins in snow and travelled happily on the shinkansen through a Siberian countryside. This is Gareth in the local park on the way to the subway station.

On this trip we decided to shy away from the backpackers and capsule hotel experience and stay in the luxury of a business hotel's double room -- no bigger than a bathroom, but none-the-less our own room. We were even treated to complimentary hand towels and dried beans.

The hotel was in Asakusa-bashi, close to the very old district of Asakusa, famous for its architecture, temples and local craftwork. Unfortunately, in the area directly surrounding our lodgings we found nothing but cheap souvenir shops and about two million bead shops. It did have one super redeeming feature though: a sumo stadium. And to our utter delight there was a tournament happening on the Sunday. Considering there are only six major tournaments a year throughout Japan we certainly felt our luck.

We really enjoyed the sumo! There was lots and lots of ceremony involved: the wrestlers would enter the ring, throw salt around, slap themselves on the thighs, stomp their feet, throw around more salt, allllllmost look like they were about to start, throw more salt, crouch and then finally wrestle. It was pretty fun seeing them go for it -- lots of grabbing and pushing and flipping each other, and some very close matches with big comebacks and exciting finishes.

At half time there was an amusing bit where three or so scrawny gaijin kids at a time would try to push the wrestlers out of the ring. It was funny; they didn't move an inch.

This is apparently the sumo mascot (the bird, not the old man).

Outside the stadium, Gareth delighted in giving a big sumo wrestler a big purple nurple.

The night before we had been to see a band called The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, a kind of 80s indie throwback band who were pretty fun, if perhaps not extraordinary. We discovered they were playing on the day and kind of decided to go on a whim, since we get so few international bands playing in Sendai. Here's a blurry picture (the lead singer never took his zipped-up leather jacket off the whole time, even though it was super hot inside. He was very dedicated to "the look").

Afterwards we treated ourselves to the drunken salaryman's dinner of choice: ramen.

And finally (skipping back to Sunday, after the sumo), there was the reason for our trip in the first place: miss Joanna Newsom, touring her then-soon-to-be-released (now released) album Have One On Me. She was so beautiful, like a little horse nuzzling her harp, and her fingers were like spiders spinning webs. Her drummer was amazing too.

She played for around an hour and a half, and she was just devine. The venue was not so good -- it seemed overbooked it was so crowded, and we could hear trains going past overhead sometimes -- but it didn't dampen our enjoyment one bit.

Here is one of Joanna Newsom's new songs for you to sample:

Joanna Newsom - Easy

Have One On Me is a beautiful album, and it is three discs long! Bliss!

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