Wanderlust, or at least intense Wanderarousal

Sunset over ShibuyaThanks to the International Date Line (1-900-UN-SLUTZ), I have to live Tuesday, October 17th all over again. I feel like I should use the opportunity to correct any mistakes I made the first time around, but I can’t think of anything particularly boneheaded I did other-today. As an added bonus, I should be relatively jetlag-free, since on the plane I slept like a rock. Assuming that there are rocks that drool all over themselves while making noises like a wounded bear being fellated with a leaf-blower.

Hey, here’s something comical: immediately after typing that last sentence, I fell asleep and woke up six hours later. More evidence I’m living in a long, slow, hackneyed sitcom.

Monday was my last day of sight-seeing, and as I mentioned I hit Tokyo Disneyland in the morning and then Akihabara in the afternoon. I think I know why Japan’s bubble economy burst — everybody in the entire damn city spends all their time at Disneyland! I could kind of understand why the parks would be so crowded on a weekend, but being there on a Monday morning in October and seeing all the rides with wait times ranging 45 to 120 minutes just caused something to snap. I became replaced with some alternate dimension anti-Chuck.

I decided I hated Disney and I hated Japan. I was tired of all the cloying, schmaltzy music and the over-done decorations and costumes. I was sick of seeing people walking by wearing clothes that assaulted my native language (“Be a HIGH CLASS! Girl is charming!”). I was tired of maps where south is at the top of the page. I was sick of wandering from one interminable queue to the next, never able to find a trash can. I was tired of seeing a city so intent on regimented population-reprogramming that there are vending machines selling cigarettes and drinks every 20 feet, but you can only drink or smoke in designated areas — not just in the theme parks, but throughout the entire city.

I left Disneyland after a few hours. (Two of those hours were spent in line for Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, which is still cool as hell, but a two-hour wait is pushing it). I took a train ride to Akihabara, the nerd mecca, and just wasn’t in a mood for any of it. By the way, if anyone’s planning a trip to Japan, avoid the Lonely Planet guide books. Four of the noted attractions they recommended, ones that I planned around seeing, turned out to be huge disappointments. Monday’s was the Tokyo Anime Center, which ended up being a room at the top of a mall complex with a TV screen and an adjoining overpriced gift shop. Even the Metreon’s Bandai-sponsored anime-devoted floor was more impressive.

After that, I’d about had it. I trudged back to the train station, past several comics and anime and toy and videogame and electronics stores without heading in to any of them. My train car back to Shibuya had an old woman who muttered constantly in Japanese, causing everyone else to look away and pretend she didn’t exist. She fixated herself on a couple of women with a baby stroller, talking at them for a minute at a time before sitting back down and muttering to herself. Eventually she marched to the center of the car and screamed something at them. She put her hand on my shoulder, pointed at the two women, said something that ended in “baka desu ne?” (“they’re idiots, aren’t they?”) and tromped off. I walked back to the hotel and had a bath.

It’s entirely likely that my crankiness was caused by toxins from my feet seeping up into my brain, because once I’d rested I was in a much better mood. I went to a restaurant in Shibuya called the “Christon Cafe,” which was recommended by a friend of a friend. It’s decorated like a gothic cathedral, with statues and furniture from real churches throughout Europe, and the food was excellent. By the time I got back to the hotel and called it an early night, I was a lot less inclined to write Tokyo off as a failed social experiment. I still don’t think I’d be able to live there for any length of time, but going on vacation once every four years might work.

When I arrived back in San Francisco this morning, I immediately noticed that the level of service took a nose dive. But still, it’s not a bad place to be. It was good to be back home, but unlike returning from Georgia, I didn’t have the same feeling of being desperate to get back to my normal routine. It was a clear, sunny morning, I was back on familiar ground with my own car and my own schedule. I realized that there are still tons of places around here I haven’t seen; I don’t need to leave the country to be a tourist. I just felt like taking an aimless drive, knowing that I could stop anywhere and do stuff and buy stuff without having to point. I could drive to Seattle, or Vancouver, or Denver, or Fresno!

But then again, here I’ve got an Xbox. So I’ll get around to that traveling some more later.

And here are the photos from my trip online: Tokyo DisneySea, Yoyogi Park, the Meiji Shrine, and Harajuku, Asakusa, and Various shots from around Tokyo.

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