Saturday, 2 June 2007

Anomalous - Shibuya & Shimokitazawa

In the Japanese language, it is common to join two words together and abbreviate them, forming a new hybrid. This is the origin of the the neighbouring Todaimae station which stands in front of "mae" Tokyo Daigaku (University). A more appetising example I encountered in the supermarket was 'Creamy Powder' which conflates to 'Creap' for your Blendy coffee. So far, I am encountering adequate surprises and opportunities for imagination around the apartment trying to operate the appliances. It was not intentional to burn my hand while making morning coffee with an indecipherable electric urn and I remain a little mystified by the shower/bath outlet arrangement [that seems to submerge the entire bathroom unit for a shower capsule which nonetheless includes the towel rack inside it], not to mention the anomalous anti-clockwise taps in the bathroom to catch you in the middle of a hot shower, chest-level spy-hole in the front door and eye-level hanging light-switch but these are understandable. not quite sure how to break into the letterbox yet and there appear to be two anyway - one through the door itself, English-style, and another at the bottom of the stairs ... hmmm which one???

It is no understatement to say my apartment is 'right' next to the railway tracks and Ikenoue station. I am growing accustomed to the chiming chords (always the same - potential for some A.I.-inspired musical composition here!), dinging railway crossing bell, earth-moving approaching trains and polite female voice announcement of the approaching train. It stops between 12.40am and 6 and trains appear to subside until 5am. This is just a bit less sleep than I like but I am sure I will learn to ignore it or sleep with my Shure sound-isolating headphones [this worked in France].

After meeting two staff members for guidance/welcome from the Matsumae International Foundation with whom I rendezvoused at Tokyo station, I purchased a magic Suica transit card that enables swipe-through access to all forms of JR, metro and private rail and subway - very convenient, settled in to my apartment and I wandered off to familiar Shibuya in search of a keitai denwa (local mobile phone). It transpires that this won't be possible before alien registration so I shall go an register my aliens on Monday. Fuelled by a delicious katsudon, I picked up an Apple Airport Express, here called AirMac, to change my Internet access to wireless and add some security encryption and some handsome black Bose speakers (they sound good, too) for noise cancelling in my room. One great thing I could say about the proximity to the railway is that it masks almost everything and it seemed to be no problem playing music until late and I don't anticipate any difficulties practising shakuhachi. In fact, I can hear a pianist on the opposite side of the tracks practising without inhibition.

Finally, I found a supermarket at Shimokitazawa (the neighbouring suburb) where my train stopped after I inadvertently forgot to check if I was jumping on a local or rapid (express few-stops) train so I had a little adventure searching for regular commodities, decoding the shampoo and conditioner, washing liquid and some mysterious dinner items. I am stoked with the architectural structure of the Blendy unfolding coffee filter bags, though I suspect the milk, despite its picture indicating it came from a cow, smells very close to nature, perhaps unpasteurised? I relaxed with a green label Kirin beer (70% something) in a tall bath right up to my neck and pine bath salts .... mmmm. Very civilised.

Matsumae Foundation have organised a cultural study trip for us in a couple of weeks that will take us to the Peace Park at Hiroshima, Himeji Castle, Nara and Kyoto with around 20 scientific Fellows fortuitously all in Japan at the same time. I have placed photos on Flickr.