Well, my life is going on here, and I'm starting to think I'll never fnish what I could say about Japan! "Not enough space" is the bane of the travel writer, and I'll soon have to condense the trip enough to write a mere 1000 word newspaper article. So in this post and the next, I'll just try to give a glimpse of some of the other Japanese things I saw. Almost everywhere I visited deserves a post of its own but, hey!
I'll start with some birds. These life sized paper cranes fly high in the stairwell of the Abiko City Museum of Birds in Chiba, a pleasant suburb on the outer edge of Tokyo. The museum is modern and it feels as if it was designed by people whose priority was to share their passion for birds, the way they look, the way they live, and the way they are made.
It is based on a fabulous Edwardian collection of stuffed birds which was collected by a member of the Japanese royal family, Yoshimara Yamashina. Although born into a rigid system, he managed to break free to study birds and do important research about them - one of his book is a standard field guide to Japanese birds. There are whole cases of stuffed birds, but I'm always a sucker for dioramas. This one showed the ecology of wetlands near the museum.
There are many models explaining bird physiology - the way wings work, how bird bones are structured, and how birds fly. My favourite is probably this, which shows every single feather to be found on an average bird. For some reason that really fascinated me.
The museum is mostly labelled in Japanese, but luckily I was visiting with Katsuko and Chisako, and they patiently translated - not that I remember everything they said. We all admired the Audubon prints on display. Here's a detail of one entitled "Summer Red Bird"
I'm not normally massively interested in birds, yet I found it hard to tear myself away from this varied, enthusiastic and carefully planned museum. It's worth taking the train ride to visit it if you ever go to Tokyo ... at least, if you've got a Japanese friend who will translate!
By contrast, here is Akihabara, which I visited the evening after the bird museum. It's a place with lots of "maid" clubs and patchinko (gambling) parlours. These girls have to give leaflets out and try to get people to come into the clubs. To be honest, most Japanese women I spoke to are not too crazy on this aspect of Tokyo life, but it is quite conspicuous to the foreign eye.
They're dressed in "cute" type outfits, like sexy maids, Alice in Wonderland, Red Riding Hood, etc. - you see a lot of young women dressed like this in certain parts of Tokyo.
But there were also all kind of eyecatching clothes in the shops, too - a mixture of charming and slightly creepy
Wouldn't like to meet this lady in my dreams...
And you can have whatever kind of eyes you want
All quite Grayson Perry really
When I revisited this department store next day, it was just about to open. You see the staff are all lined up as the manager waits for the clock to reach exactly the right second to open the store. When we walked in, they all bowed in unison.
So - off to choose some whirly coloured contact lenses like the Mad Hatter!