Saturday, February 11, 2012


I woke this morning from ten hours of gloriously uninterrupted sleep, dehydrated and my mouth befouled with the taste of last night's dinner. Still, my headache had vanished and the whites of my eyes were once again white, rather than fully bloodshot. I slowly winched myself out of bed, showered and then heading out into the sunshine, ready to see Tokyo.

It's cold at the moment, which means the heating is cranked up everywhere indoors. And that means that you'll wrap up warm for the walk to the station, then almost faint once you're inside. Not me though: I just keep having these cold shivers and feelings of lightheadedness, which make me worry about my future survival. Well, at least I'm not overheating.

We took the Yamanote line north to Nippori, and then walked down to Ueno, where the National Museum is. Everywhere we walked, we were struck by how clean and tidy everything is. Tokyo makes you think that an army of nocturnal elves have been combing the grass and polishing the paving stones every night; it's all just too well-organised. Coming from a country that prides itself on a stoic and apathetic inattention to detail, I'm made to feel a bit uneasy.

I'm complaining about Tokyo being clean and tidy. Exactly how jaded a human being does that make me?

I think I visited the National Museum in 1997, and wasn't very impressed. I liked it much more this time,  which suggests either an unreliable memory, or Tokyo's curators have pulled their collective fingers out. There's a lot of very nicely displayed statues and examples of Japanese art and culture, including some samurai armour and some very shiny swords. There's also some clothing that has been labelled as a 'bedspread', which I don't think can be correct. Unless Japanese beds have arms that they need to put sleeves through.

One room up on the second floor is full of netsuke. Well, as full as you can fill a room with objects the size of a baby's hand. They were donated to the museum following the premature death of a Japanese prince, who expired at 47 while playing squash at the Canadian embassy. Another reason not to play squash. Or to beware of Canadians?

I was fading, so we went for lunch, which was a good opportunity for me to use my very old Japanese and say no to meat. Then, still feeling like death, and beginning to cross my eyes, I was packed me off to Ueno station by my wife, regretting that my body was failing to work for me. And so I wander back to bed, a little crushed by the world, yet hoping to be alive again tomorrow...


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