Sunday, 4 November 2007

Palaces of Joy

Orginially posted on Facebook on Wednesday October 17th:

It probably would have been good to write about these super-plus-fun adventures in Japan when they first happened over a week ago, but I immediately tumbled into a week of deranged overtime, working nine to five down at the Tax Office Training School teaching English to young tax officers, then going back to my school in the evening to teach some regular classes. It sapped my strength all right, but it was actually a pretty good experience. The rest of my October is probably going to be pretty similar, so I’m girding my loins and settling in baby.

Anyway, we heard talk of a market... a GOLDEN market, held only twice a year. A temple to used goods, a bazaar of tat! Sapporo Golden Market!

We had to check it out, so, suitably hungover we made our way through the subway system, out into the wilds at the end of the Toho line, past the parched earth of unturned fields to the Tsudome, and the promised Golden Market, which was - yes, basically a giant indoor car boot sale. This was kind of what we expected / were hoping for and I certainly felt that I should attend at least in honour of Bunny, who probably would have turned up a shedload more stuff than I could. But then, I was feeling pretty lousy. I got a David Lynch documentary on DVD and a Pez dispenser of the Aardvark from The Ant and The Aardvark that used to be on The Pink Panther Show. I defy you to have done better after karaoke until 5am the night before.

The sight that greets you upon finally entering Golden Market. Next Golden Market is 27th & 28th April 2008 kids! There was a stage beneath that sign, and I was later asked by one of my students who happened to work part time at Golden Market: "Did you see any of the show?" I said I hadn't and he seemed happy. "Don't worry," he said "it was unimpressive."

But the size, as you can probably appreciate from the photo, was really something. And the setting was quite striking, the springy astroturf and the huge arching dome made for quite a weird shopping experience. Most of the junk was just pure trash, but there were a few stalls from actual retailers selling off damaged crap, ex-rental CDs and videos, some geek stalls selling trading cards and action figures, some craft stalls, and proper mini stores from three of the major mobile phone companies, which was very odd.

Some of the funniest stores were the little hipster clear outs. There were plenty of young, trendy things who just rolled up to Golden Market with a huge suitcase full of clothes and a poorly made cardboard sign with prices on. They found a spot I guess, settled down on the floor, flung their cases open… and waited. They were mostly in groups of three, mostly girls and one group certainly seemed to be more interested in trying on each others clothes than selling anything.

After that we had coffee, and I ate THE MOST AMAZINGLY PRESENTED SERVING OF WAFFLES AND ICE CREAM EVER. It took about half an hour to arrive, but when it did, it took the form of a meticulously crafted ice cream snow man with a cone for a hat, sitting on two waffles, with eyes and syrup and everything. I didn’t get a picture for some retarded reason, but believe me, it was a thing of beauty. Two girls who were the only other customers in the shop at the time had to come over and marvel at it. And then we demolished it in short order.

And after THAT we met some other folks and went for further fun at a veritable palace of the stuff: Leisure Sports, or Rejya Supo, as the katakana name goes. Leisure Sports is just a wonderful place, and not too expensive: you sign in and pay 70 yen (40p?) for every ten minutes you’re there. And for this princely sum you can wander around a cornucopia of amusements and healthy entertainments and play anything for free. There’s a small five a side pitch, remote controlled cars, a bucking bull ride, baseball nets, badminton courts, basketball courts, a climbing wall, a (frankly intense) assault course, pugel sticks, trampolines, an internet café and comic library, loads of other sporty things, some sort of chill out zone, and endless slot and arcade machines that are locked on so you can use them for free. I believe that the one-armed bandits, coin pushers and so on were powered by Leisure Sports tokens that were free for the taking and worthless, but I’m not sure about that. Either way we found some truly awe-inspiring games: a dog walking simulator where you had to power a treadmill in order to walk the dog, but in order to do so you have to attack it at a running speed that makes playing the actual game impossible (the dog then runs ahead, almost gets hit by a car and cowers trembling on the ground, traumatized); some wii-esque sword games, and most phenomenal/pathetic of all an arcade game called Tokyo Bus Guide where you drive a bus down the road and pick up passengers. At least it had a replica giant bus steering wheel.

And then there was the Halloween party, at least one picture of which has shown up in the inimitable Tara Smith's Facebook collection, so you should be able to find that if you want to see what I would look like as the shittest member of Kiss.

Chris and Jon in a battle to the soft, spongy death. Incedently Jon was undefeated champion of the pugel stick 'log'. But he's a tall, healthy, American fellow - he was my tip from the start.

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