Tuesday, 10 April 2018

11 - Nostalgia Lane

(Thursday 5th April - Machida)


Commercial survivors : The Ducky Duck : an overpriced and oddly named but central coffee and cake shop
Woke up feeling not so hot and bothered this morning to what felt like a 5 degree drop in temperature over yesterday morning, and sure enough, on venturing outside for my morning constitutional beneath the heavy concrete sky the temperature was pleasantly cool.
Don Quixote : everything from toys to bicycle bells
I don't know why I keep ending up back here. Maybe it's because it's technically part of Tokyo but right on the edge to still be open minded enough to accept different ways of thinking. Machida straddles two perpendicular train lines which can take you to a very wide variety of locations- the JR can shuttle you east to west from Hachioji to Yokohama, and the Odakyu can whisk you from the black sands of Katase-Enoshima all the way up to the seedy breathtaking towering human neon anthills of Shinjuku. 
This overpriced but delicious centrally located steak shop
To witness the reduction of what had been the largest 100 yen Daiso in the world to just half a floor in the opposite building was quite a tragic experience. If I remember right it was spread across six floors, resulting in a 92% downsizing. What happened between 2012 and 2018 to result in such drastic measures? Was it the increase in tax from 5% to 20%? Some other prohibitive legislation on imports? Who knows. I remember once someone questioned the morality of 100 yen shops saying that workers slaved away in gulags just to provide us with our cheap bowls and cooking utensils, but I found out later that it was Daiso's business model of buying huge volumes of goods in bulk at large discounts allowed them to sell them off individually at such a low price. Whenever you bought something from Daiso it was always a bit of a gamble, but, like gambling, it was fun, and everything was so cheap (67p) the stakes were low, so what did it matter if your umbrella broke on the way home in the rain- it was only 100yen. Who cared if the handle of your trowel snapped off the first time you try to build a sandcastle? And if your plastic shelving unit survived several lifetimes you thanked your lucky stars and looked back in amazement and marvelled, 'This was only 100yen!'.

For many years after leaving Japan I dreamt about this station exit
We decided today to take a walk down Nostalgia Lane and go back to where we used to live to see if our son, who was 0-3 years at the time of living there, could recall our apartment, and maybe even pop in unannounced to one of his play friends for a chat.

My sister found a gun in this river
He seemed to remember our old 4-block apartment building and where we used to sit him in a large basin of cold water on the top stairs verandah to cool him down in the height of the summer. 

I remember when this was all fields! Oh, it still is
When we went round for his friend though, for some reason we were all a bit nervous, but we needn't have been. The friend was either not there or too shy to come down, so we ended up chatting politely with the grandfather about his impressive collection of animals that he himself had hunted in the hills of Kanagawa and had stuffed and put on display around his home.

Presumably these tanuki (raccoon dog) were exactly like this when he shot them

I'm home, deer!
We took a walk around nearby Sagami Ono Station to see what had changed, as we were leaving in 2012 the old narrow alleyways filled with bizarre and wondrous back street shops were all being bulldozed to be replaced by an accommodation supermall. And when I got there I felt a little down. The tiny, meandering backstreets filled with so much unique Japanese character and history had been replaced with the ubiquitous clinically spotless shopping mills filled with many trademarks of businesses found in any large city in the world.  I didn't come all the way back here to visit another Starbucks or Burger King. 

Sagami Ono's new mall complex
In the evening, while my wife and son were off visiting his childhood friend again (this time for a prearranged and more successful meeting) I wandered the streets of Sagami Ono killing time before meeting another old friend of my own. I probably shouldn't have, but I was cold and dressed unwisely in shorts and T shirt, so I went into a game centre on the main street and found the Gundam consoles.

Gundam was something that I confess was an unhealthy addiction in my previous incarnations in Japan, but if I hadn't gotten into it I would have missed quite a few good moments getting deep into Japanese culture interacting with other gamers. It was an effective (not to mention expensive and time consuming) way to break out of the culture bubble in which many people who live abroad find themselves. That said, sitting down to play this time I found that through several years' lack of practice, as well as unfamiliarity with the new system and robots, and not particularly liking the over-complicated and cluttered set up, I was destroyed quickly and decisively each and every time, by faceless victors online.
In the evening I met someone I usually bump into while randomly walking around the area, but this time had prearranged a rendezvous just to make sure. We went to Angie's (which was completely dead being a week night) and soon warmed up with an Irish coffee, before moving on to Heartland. A good chat was had and many topics discussed to various degrees of depth and sobriety. 


Read Day 12. 

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