the last night

7 01 2008

Just as an FYI, I didn’t have much to say about Osaka. It seemed a little different than the other Japanese cities I’ve visited—it’s dirtier, and the people are a little more in your face, but still nice, I guess. I don’t think Zach and I were there long enough to get a good feel for it. The pictures say enough-ish.

There are also a couple of pictures of Himeji Castle, another UNESCO World Heritage site (three in two days!) near Osaka. It’s big and castle-y. And a couple from the Ghibli museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. Ghibli produced Hayao Miyazaki masterpieces such as Princess Mononoke, Sprited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.

Moving on. If you want to talk about fitting endings to our excursions around Japan, I don’t think there could be one better than tonight. After another day of shinkansen-ing around the Kanto and Kansai regions, we ended in Tokyo eating bad ramen and doing last minute capsule-hotel reservations. We saw a kabuki performance, had another dinner (remember that post I made about eating all the time?) and drank at the most surreal bar I’ve ever visited (Mysterious Bar in Shinjiku). Girls in weird, neon, futuristic lingerie in a black-lit room serve multi-straw drinks with flashing ice cubes where each straw produces a different color liquid.

Now, I’m laying in my capsule that is about one foot too short for my lanky ass, going to bed at the end of a long, long journey through the country. My feet might literally kick someone walking by my pod.

The kabuki performance was surprisingly fun. I remember thinking the kabuki shows we did in high school were tolerable for about 10 minutes, and only kept my attention with the spectacle that the artistic director, Shozo Sato, had incorporated to make the English-Japanese kabuki fusion that we put on. At the show in Tokyo, I was surprisingly entertained. I understood a bit of the Japanese, and the English commentary given on the headsets that the kabukiza (the theater) rents out was quite entertaining and provided contextual as well as scripted explanations of what was going on.

The play also wasn’t nearly as archaic as I expected it to be. One character said two of the top ten one-liners of 2007 (“dondake” and “sonna no kankei ne”), while another put on one of those ubiquitous flu masks to protect himself from disease while crawling through another samurai’s legs. I also noticed an interesting correlation to anime and Japanese TV dramas. Like in anime, kabuki’s evil characters have deeper voices than the heroes and shows end without conclusion (ever watched an episode of Dragonball Z?). Remember though, stats fans, that correlation ≠ causation, so as much as I want to think that the newer art form, anime got it from the older kabuki, it could be the other way around. Either way, with those contemporary references thrown into an old show, it was one of the more blaring examples of the juxtaposition of contemporary and tradition.

It’s not only in kabuki that I saw correlation. At the gates to Asakusa, for example, the statue of Kongourikishi has muscles that are eerily similar to the exaggerated ones of just about any action-based anime or manga. I have trouble imagining that those statues were built in the last 50 or even 100 years, which leads me to believe modern Japanese animation has older influences than I would have expected.

Things like that and hearing the traditional band (perhaps a video to come later) at New Years Eve made me wonder a lot about where the line is between traditional and invented art forms. Like, what makes something traditional? Is there anything in America that’s “traditional,” or is it too young of a country? Is it possible to have a unified tradition in a place whose history comes from so many different places? Those are just the thoughts on my mind that I doubt will ever result in a fruitful or interesting answer.

Oops. I just kicked someone. I’ll take that as my sign that I should rest for the long journey back to the cold, snowy north.

PICTURES (click to enlarge):
Himejijo
Himeji castle

view from the top
looking out from the top of Himejijo

Doutonbouri in Osaka
Doutonbouri (Osaka), at night

dirty, dirty Osaka
possibly the dirtiest bench in Osaka…or Japan

Giant Crab!
A giant crab! snippy snippy!

More of dirty, dirty Osaka
There may or may not be trash that Zach and I contributed to this

In your face
This guy was all up in my grill while I tried to take an innocuous picture

Mirror, mirror
Mirrors, mirrors on the wall, don’t let a car hit me and make me fall

One sleek mother
Too fast(-looking)!

kabukiza
The kabuki-za from across the street

blurry waitress
a blurry waitress at Mysterious Bar

Zach, encapsulated
Zach, encapsulated

fancy sign
a fancy sign for a hotel with rooms of 2 cubic meters

the way home
signs to point you home on the street, that’s Tokyo

the Ghibli bathrooms
even the bathrooms at the Ghibli museum are ridiculously cute

future Penn alum?
it’s a damn small world. nothing like having the same shirt on as a Japanese 5 year old when her photo-hungry dad is around.

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13 04 2008
update « ザックですよ (I am Zach!)

[…] 13 04 2008 I finally added the last entry from winter vacation, aptly titled the last night.  Aren’t I […]

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