Tuesday, 20 July 2004

Out and about
As I mentioned yesterday, Monday was a national holiday so the good Guru and I ventured forth to keep those not living in Japan abreast of the state of the nation. And about 5 paces from the flat this proved to be a stupid move as it was hot. Hot, hot, hot! I may have mentioned that last year it was hot at times, but last year was nothing compared to this year. And luckily yesterday was nothing compared to today, when all I had to do was go to work. Today the mercury topped 41 degrees in Shinjuku, next to the station. 41 degrees! This is just silly weather, I mean, it is as hot as Delhi (old and new) and tonight the temperature will drop to a much more 'comfortable' 28 degrees, which is good for a lot of things except sleeping. "Why did I come back to this ridiculous country?" is a thought that is going through my head quite a lot at the moment. However I am allowed to rib the Guru mercilessly as she was heard to utter, back in May or June "oh I have missed a Japanese summer" - she ain't thinking that now...
So anyway, as it was such a nice, hot, sunny day we thought what better way to spend it than to go to the beach. Now for you sad plebs not at home in Japan, this would mean going along to some sad bit of the country where the land stops and the sea starts, all very haphazard and, well, natural. Oh dear. Now us ultra chic and 'with it' people here, we don't do nature, organic or original. Oh no, if it is a beach we want, we go to an artificial one right in the middle of Tokyo. Yup, we wandered off to Odaiba.
Odaiba is an island built on reclaimed land right in the middle of Tokyo bay. You might think, therefore that it is all quite new, but you'd be wrong. It was originally built, according to the rough guide, by the Shogun in 1853 as a cannon emplacement to protect Tokyo from Admiral Perry's black ships in the same year. This was about as successful as trying to keep MacDonalds out of Moscow and soon Japan was opened up to the west after 300 years of isolation. About 140 years later the governor of Tokyo had an even better wheeze;
"Lads, lads, hold that and watch out for the roach, I've just had an epiphany [translating freely as I go]. What we need to do, right, is get all the crap from Tokyo, throw it in the bay and build a big shopping centre on it. What do you think? Nah, nah build on the rubbish, they'll never know. And we'll get this really big bridge right across the bay, we really need one as we don't have a famous bridge and everywhere has a famous bridge..."
And he got his way, Mr Shunichi, so he dug a big pit in the middle of Tokyo bay, filled it with rubbish and then built the Rainbow bridge across to it and, in the best magician traditions said 'ta daa!' And what he had, then, was an enormous, and enormously expensive, car park, as there was nothing there at all. Somewhat surprisingly, this annoyed the good tax payers of Tokyo so they kicked him out and scratched theirs heads thinking, 'and what shall we do with this' until someone, clever and more perspicacious than the others, asked 'what do Japanese really like doing?' to which the answer is, of course, shopping.
So they turned this great big car park into a smaller car park with lots of shops there. This proved to be immensely popular so they built more, and restaurants, video arcades, cinemas and, in the end, houses and offices, even persuading (or maybe tricking) Fuji TV to move there. And then lastly, in an effort to keep the place at the forefront of cutting edge silliness, someone decided about 2 years ago to make an artifical beach there. This is a grand idea as, if you live in Tokyo, it is a bit of a trek to the beach, either down past Yokohama to Enoshima, or over to Chiba to the Pacific (Sotobo) side. The reason you have to go so far is that if one wants to put a toe anywhere near Tokyo bay as it is horrible water, brown, a bit smelly, definitely oily and, like Odaiba, basically crap.
So we went there as, being residents of Saitama, we are even further from the sea than Tokyo people. So we stood on the sand, looked warily at the water, sniffed, endured the sun, and then retreated back to the shopping malls for lunch. Odaiba, nice beach, shame about the water.
But the rest of Odaiba is a bit like Roppongi Hills, where the Guru and I went before, and a bit like Yokohama, and a bit like Shiodome, in fact I think that Japanese adults have theme parks here, they are called shopping malls and they are all the same - maybe, though, I'm just being naive and the rest of the world is like this, though I hope not.
Julian, golf playing soon to be a father brother, passed his driving test last weekend after going on one of those (I shudder to use the phrase 'crash course') short course things in Wales and he passed, at last, mainly so he drive Katharine to the hospital when the sprog finally makes its entrance. So, first time Julian drives his wife anywhere will be when she is about to give birth - my won't that be a fun journey...
Mr Jenkins again
So he is still going to be arrested by the American authorities, but he is now in Japan as he has to have some emergency medical treatment. The MPs won't nab him until he is all better, which who knows, may take 20 or 30 years? But here's a weird thing. When he got off the plane in the Sweden of South East Asia, he was a spry and energetic 65 yr old with a mischevious twinkle in his eye. By the end of the week he was bent over double, using a cane and leaning on anybody close. Just coincidence after the Japanese govt. found a loophole in the deserters agreement with the US which says if they're in hospital they're safe, for the time being...?

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