Saturday, May 22, 2010

JAPAN Day 2: Gorevette Goes to the Zoo

April 29, 2010. After a strange breakfast at the hotel, we got ready to walk around Yokohama. Our hosts picked us up in the lobby for sightseeing before driving into Tokyo for our first show. First, we visit a Yokohama shrine.

Up a stone stairway we climbed to the entrance of the shrine. Before entering the grounds, Matt showed us how to ceremonially wash our hands, so to speak. We used a bamboo ladle to alternately splash water on our hands. I got excited and over-splashed.

A ceremony is happening at the shrine in memory of a past Emperor's birthday. We are lucky to witness the ceremony, I am told. It's quiet and windy, no music is being played, only people reciting things. A line of men in white robes depart the shrine and walk in line silently past us.

Across from the shrine, Nikki and Matt take fortunes from what appears to be the Wall of Fortune.

For a few yen, one takes a small fortune package off the wall. After discovering one's fortune and the corresponding charm held within the package, the fortune is tied with the others on the wall adjacent. Nikki got the 'big money' fortune complete with a lucky cat charm. Everyone is happy.

The girls manning what appears to be the shrine's 'shop', for lack of a better Japanese term that I do not know, are summoned from their posts to take a photo with us. I do not know why, but what a nice shot.

We descend the staircase and make our way to the next destination: The Yokohama Zoo.

Wow, the zoo. It was similar to other zoos, I guess, I've been only to the Detroit Zoo as a reference. Differences are subtle, for instance, there are kids everywhere, a gift shop, and it's landscaped, as one would suppose. Except that the landscaping is wild and crazy!

The distance between the zoo-goers and the animals is slight and kept with only a single fence or set of bars. The Japanese are smart and respectful; no tom-foolery or reaching in cages ...

... and well-dressed, as Americans in general seem to completely ignore this concept. Check out this typical, and stylish, Japanese family at the zoo. Note metallic gold sneakers.

A crowd surrounds the red pandas. This exhibit charmed everyone to death. The red panda looks like a raccoon crossed with a mouse, not like a Chinese panda.

We come to the petting zoo and things get weird...and cute! The entrance is marked with a parking lot of strollers. Yuck!

Small animals are displayed openly on tables with high rimmed wooden edges. Children crowd around the edges, arms outstretched in the shavings, reaching for something to hold. Mice are the first animals in the Japanese petting zoo.

Guinea pigs are the next offering. They grunt and wiggle on a table. The pigs are scooped up in what Nikki calls a 'guinea pig burrito', on a small square blanket (provided), and then taken over on one's lap and gingerly brushed with a teeny-tiny wire brush (also provided).

Chicks and hens complete the petting zoo experience. I am experiencing cute overload and have to step away.

Check the petting zoo signs' dos and don'ts: don't squeeze the mice too hard or drop them or run away with them. Also, the guinea pigs may bite.

In conclusion, the zoo rules! On to Tokyo, 45 minutes away, our first show at MoonStep.

Monday, May 10, 2010

ICHIBAN! Japan Tour 2010

It's Wednesday, 4/28 @ 4:40 am in Tokyo and 3 pm Tuesday 4/27 in the States. Eight more hours on the plane. We're at 34,000 ft and traveling at 543 mph just passing Vancouver heading for Juneau. I like the skymap, knowing exactly where the plane is. I had dinner and checked on my band mates: all asleep.

Our hosts met us at Tokyo Narita airport. Matt and Shimmi from the Japanese band The Havenots drove us to Yokohama where we'll stay for two days. After checking in, Nikki and I checked out the tiny bathroom and tried on the traditional robes and slippers in the room.

I checked out the guitar I had for this tour. I opened the case to find a perfectly in-tune Gretsch White Falcon 6136, strung up just right. Yes. Lianna came over from her room and we played a little bit.

Then we went to dinner with our hosts. Matt, Shimmi and Toshio took us down winding narrow streets to a small place with one large table and a bar. We were the only ones in the restaurant. I like. They ordered for us appetizers and a noodle dish, all of which were excellent.
Despite being winded from the 14 hour flight, Nikki and I went out to further imbibe. We wandered through the streets of Yokohama, finding a tank full of giant squid and the Yokohama red-light district, which is comprised of exactly one adult video store.

Matt led us to a second bar where we sat on milk crates duct-taped together with slats of wood for seats on top. Rustic Japanese chic ... or just cheap? None cared. The beer was flowing and snacks such as whole tiny dried fishes came to the table.

In a bold cultural display, Matt proceeded to show us an ancient Japanese trick: lighting a cigarette incorporating chopsticks. Impressive.
All this makes for a fine evening and is an omen of a good tour. Tomorrow is sightseeing and show day #1: Tokyo.