Monday, April 19, 2010

Manga-cafe, Tokugawa Museum and Sundry:

So at 4am, Mie and I decided to leave the club (where the party was still going strong) and find some place to crash. Mie had suggested that we could either spend the night at a Karaoke hall or at a Manga Cafe, but since it was so late, we'd probably sleep better at the Manga Cafe. So we went. The Manga Cafe was an over ten story building with places to read Manga, small rooms that you could rent by the hour to watch DVDs, surf the internet, read manga, use Playstation and most of the people were doing when we got there. For about $18/person, for seven hours, Mie and I rented a cubicle that was just large enough for both of us to stretch out across the floor and sleep. The floor was padded (more comfortable than my futon actually in regards to padding, and the room had two beanbag chairs which made great pillows.

We had free run of the Manga Cafe too, including being able to read from the huge manga library, watch DVDs, use the internet, or just hang out if we wanted. The Manga-cafe also had cup-o-noodles style (but better) ramen you could buy and free soda and tea as well. This was a great place! Perfect place to go to crash overnight from clubbing (as was obvious by the split of how people were dressed: Otaku vs. Women (and men) in full club gear. I'll definitely crash here again. Also, since the Manga cafe gets regular TV stations, and there is one about 3 minutes from my house, I know how I'm watching my Japanese doramas (without having to wait for them to come up on the Internet), so it was a win.

In the DVD/Sleeping Areas, the Manga-cafe played a form of background music that was like an elevator remix of popular and obscure songs from musicals, anime, US ballads, and TV themes done in the one note style that sounds like a crime drama or Lifetime movie. I fell asleep and had this incredibly weird dream that I was teaching a class, constantly having to leave because I had to pee, and then coming back with the assured terror that while I was gone, SOMETHING HORRIBLE was happening to the children I had been teaching. And that SOMETHING HORRIBLE had something to with them being shoved into shoeboxes.

I woke in a state of terror, heart pounding, and really having to pee, so I got up. I was thinking about my dream (and a bit scared that when I went back to sleep it would pick up where it had left off, as dreams sometimes do), unsure why I was so frightened and listening to the canned music when I realized why what was probably restful for the Japanese people there (the music was clearly designed to be pleasant) was scaring the crap out of me.

Soon I figured it out: If you ever watch a crime drama, Lifetime movie, or police procedural, you'll notice whenever SOMETHING HORRIBLE is happening to a child (usually a murder, or if it's Lifetime, a rape) the music is done in the exact same style. That sort of tinny music box simplification of what is ordinarily a cheerful song. Then the color leaches from the scene, or the lights dim, and it's bad things.

Figuring this out made me more easily able to sleep (and my nightmare didn't come back...phew...), though I kept waking up at random points through the night because I'd recognize a song and the recognition would jog me awake. The most surprising music choice for me was the music box rendition of “I'll Give My Life For You” from Miss Saigon. That's the song where Kim is basically telling her son that she'll kill herself in order to see that he has a better life in America. That's a real winner for restful sleep. There were also slowed down renditions of eighties one hit wonders, Beatles' hits, and music from random movies (but not A Beautiful Mind, which would have actually been the perfect choice. Maybe I missed it). I think for people who aren't familiar with the music (or American Crime Dramas), it's probably just random background noise. For me though, the associations kept returning me to the land of the awake.

That said, I LOVED the Manga Cafe! It was soooo much fun! And my awakeness allowed me the chance to wander around, look at people, and start (when I say 'start' I mean peruse the first 1-2 pages) of two manga: the first issue of Full Metal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) and a manga that was unfamiliar to me “Tegami Nochi” (don't quote me on the last word, I'm not sure I'm remembering it correctly). The second one took place on another planet and had something to do with delivering letters. That's as far as I got, but I did start making vocabulary cards from the words I'd looked up from it, which was helpful in regards to improving my weak Japanese vocabulary. When next clubbing, I'm totally going to make the Manga Cafe my crashplace. With earplugs this time.

Mie and I parted ways after the Manga Cafe: I was meeting up with Hatsue-san to go to a museum and have lunch and Mie had to go home to her family. Still, we had an amazing time, and we're totally going back to either that club or another one, so yay!

There was some confusion in regards to where in Kanayama Station Hatsue and I were going to meet up, but it was soon resolved. Since my breakfast had been a handfull of Koala Bear snacks (made of can find these in Chinatown in Philly. They are in a small green cardboard tube that is shaped like a pentagon. Try them; you won't regret!) that I'd picked up at the Conbini the night before, I was pretty hungry. So we stopped at a dirt cheap but filling and delicious corner dive at the Kanayama Station. I tried Akamiso (red miso, very sweet!) sauce chicken Katsu (fried chicken patty cut up basically) over rice with salad and scraped my plate clean. Then we were off to the Tokugawa museum and garden. All things inside related directly to the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Both were amazing. The garden was beautiful, full of peony flowers (in Japan they are called Boaton: pronounced like button but the first part more like “Boat”)., huge, stunning koi fish and lovely, planned waterfalls. Also a tea house (for tea ceremony, display, no real tea there) Many pictures were taken. For a while, Hatsue and I just sat by the side of the small pond, watched the Koi and talked. Then we went into the museum and saw artifacts (including armor and arrows) as old as the 12th century. Chinese, Japanese and Korean art was represented. My favorite piece of art was a screen of the four scenes by Kano Tan'yu (sample of his work:,.2) (note Sample does not do the artist justice, but I wasn't able to get pictures in the museum so it will have to do). It was stunning how much detail, beauty and sheer depth of space could and was captured in so few brush strokes.

Hatsue-san and I made plans to meet again at some soon point, exchanged Keitai information (now that I have one) and I'm totally looking forward to seeing her again. After the museum, I was flagging in energy. I made my way back to Toyota City, puttered aimlessly around my apartment and then passed out. An uneventful end to a highly charged weekend of fun!

Photos: Facebook Album