I went to Roppongi yesterday. This deserves mention partly because it was, overall, a very good experience for me, but mainly because Roppongi sounds awesome. Seriously. Say it out loud, rolling the “r” and drawing out the double “p” in the middle. Rrrrrroppppongi. It makes you feel good. (It’s also one of the few places on the tube map – along with Naka-meguro and sometimes Shibuya – that I can read the kanji for.)
Anyway, I was in Roppongi yesterday evening. Tokyo, I have found, is a city that is twice as impressive by night as it is by day – don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty by day, but that pretty takes on a certain sexy, diabolical hue once the sun goes down. Unless you’re in a residential area, ’cause it’s getting on for Christmas and it’s pretty difficult to find Santa sexy. (There is a house in my area that’s so hung about with Christmas lights that I wonder how the inhabitants manage to get any sleep. It has a set of Disney characters in lights along the front fence, the first of which sort of looks like it’s about to attack. If you want a photo of this, you are going to have to wait until I have a camera, which in turn is going to have to wait until I have some reliable means of accessing money. Don’t worry, they’ll still be there when these things have come to pass – I hope.)
I was in Roppongi, as I was saying before I – again – so rudely interrupted me, for a trial Nihon-Jujutsu lesson. Don’t ask me exactly what that is; from what I’ve seen so far it’s Judo for grown-ups, not that I can see what’s wrong with teaching grown-ups Judo. This took place in the American Embassy Housing Compound, which meant that when I got lost (a fate I’ve resigned myself to in this city – there are no street signs and my directional sense was never going to win me any awards), the only thing I knew how to ask directions to was “Amerika no Taishikan” – the American Embassy.
…turns out they’re not the same thing.
I had many, many fascinated security guards gather round to laugh at me.
Yeah, um, those stories you heard about the Japanese all being polite and nice? Not so much if what you are is lost. I don’t know why this is; it seems to be some sort of blip on the politeness radar. It’s the only thing that I’ve been made fun of for – my host mother teases me mercilessly about it, and while the people I stop to ask for directions are perfectly nice about it if they don’t know the way either (unless you’re asking at a koban – I was lost in Ebisu this morning and the police officer kept on chuckling as he explained to me that he didn’t think the building I was looking for existed), anybody who actually does know gives me directions whilst sort of sniggering behind his or her hand. Yet I’ve checked with the handful of other gaijin I’ve encountered, and have been reassured that in the early days getting horrendously lost is to be expected – this town is horrendous to navigate. I don’t get it. I can say something offensive by mistake and get away with it, but being lost is cause for mockery?
I can laugh about it now. At the time, I was late and being laughed at by a little circle of security guards – I almost dissolved into tears. A man exiting the Embassy kindly escorted me to the the housing compound, and the Ju-jutsu instructor showed me the way back to the station afterwards. He also gave me a free magazine for foreigners in Tokyo, which was awesome, and promised to introduce me to his friend the Aikido instructor, which was also awesome – he’s a very nice man.
This entry is not going to be as detailed as I wished, because I’m exhausted; I’m not really sleeping properly. (I’m going to whine a little here about my getting-up time. I get up at seven thirty each morning. I’m not used to that anymore, but I nevertheless wouldn’t mind it if I could see the reasoning behind it – I can’t. Why should I get up at seven thirty? I don’t participate in the school run in any way, shape or form; I’ve not been asked to do any chores that early; the earliest I have left the house since I got here is half past nine. I’m not saying I should be allowed to sleep till midday, but…eight? Eight in the morning? Nice round number? No?) Suffice it to say that I was amazed that the USA thought it necessary to build themselves their own little village (the compound’s population is about 1600) in the middle of Tokyo for employees of their embassy. I wonder if there’s a British one…
More tomorrow, if I have time.