Saturday, 5 January 2008

Winter Vacation with the Bear Jamboree

Chris assured me that Jamborees are generally associated with Bears, hence the post title. I'm sceptical, but then I often am and I try not to let it get in the way of a good Jamboree.

Chris came all the way from England for the New Year's Holiday, and boy did we have a high old time! Here are some photographs... prose photographs that is! And some real photos too, to stop you rioting. Because God knows that reading on it's own is just no fun.

Oh boy.

Adrienne Yoder is awesome for letting us crash in her appartment in Tokyo while she was out of town. Adrienne! You're the best! Tokyo was positively tropical compared to Sapporo, every day was balmy and mild punctuated by blinding sunshine.

Oh, but I plain don't like Tokyo very much. Sightseeing and looking around the city requires frequent train hops and transfers that are just not quirky or interesting no matter how you cut it. And with Chris's jet lag and my general tiredness we fell asleep on every other train just like seasoned Tokyo-ites. About half the people in every carriage of every train are asleep at any one given time, the trains are so warm, and their gentle swaying is so lulling... you just... can't help...

Anyway, we climbed skyscrapers for the bird's eye view of the Blade Runner skyline; we spent half a day in guitar shops looking at ancient equipment and Japanese made pedals with controls like "Speed", "Duty", "All", "Rave" and "Night"; we bought obscene amounts of cheap CDs; we went to Shrines and Temples where they were hammering up floodlights and hammering down heavy duty flooring to cope with the thousands and thousands of people expected on New Year's night; we went to extremely expensive shops and extremely cheap shops; and we ate quickly and conveniently, which seems to be the best I can do in Tokyo.

Chris meets guitar pedal armageddon in an Ochanomizu guitar shop.

Meiji Jingu, my favourite place in Tokyo.

On the plane back to Sapporo we were the only foreign people on board, so when the stewardess made her announcements in Japanese AND English we really HAD to listen, because it was pretty much for our benefit.

Back in Sapporo we spent New Year's Eve with the fabulous Yuka, and the equally amazing Katsuhiko, eating great food, watching a sort of J-Pop / Enka all star revue (that brough Chris, all too cruelly up to speed with Japanese pop music, and the joys of SMAP), and finally facing minus-five-ish temperatures to visit Hokkaido Shrine and throw a coin for luck in the New Year. Oh, also we ate Soba noodles just before midnight, long noodles for a long life.

People purifying themselves with water at Hokkaido Jingu on New Year's Day at 2am. Note icicles on the right hand gutter. It was cold as balls.

The next couple of days featured lots of snow, shopping, walking and Chris being fed lots of (hopefully) awesome food. Soup curry, a general izakaya buffet, okonomiyaki and finally sushi. What can I say, the food here is fucking GREAT. The highlight of MY week was meeting the chairman and owner of the Fugetsu chain of okonomiyaki restaurants in a crowded, smoky, fourth floor eatery. His cartoon avatar appears all over every store, and it was a genuine thrill to actually meet him in the flesh. And, I don't want to be asinine, but he looked exactly like a Japanese Bob Hoskins. Which is transcendentally awesome. I wish, I wish, I wish I had got a photo taken with him.

Of course we did plenty of other amazing, fabulous, exotic things which I haven't the time to go into here. But y'know everyone's invited.


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