Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Japan Trip April 9th (Day 9) Kobe: more Purikuna, Yuri/Yaoi, and I meet god!

Pain and travel, that seems a good topic to open with. We did not go back to Nara Park today to see the other World Heritage Shrine because I was too, well too much. Every day since the Geisha, Samurai and Kimono day I have been able to go out less and less and need more and more time to lie in the room. I have broken the habit of sleeping 4 hours for each nap and tried instead to sleep longer overnight. But for example, when you exclude the travel time, I spent about 60-90 minutes in total actually out doing things yesterday. We knew this would happen and that is why we make sure that the 90 minutes is spent feeding deer and seeing World Heritage Shrines instead of wheeling around looking for a 7-11.

Today, we have two to three hours in Kobe (this will turn out to be a lie, try 4-5 hours) where we will leave the packs at the station and then Linda will push me around to see the European and Chinese districts and do a little shopping (lies, all lies!). Or we will catch an early train to Himeiji and spend more time sleeping there (That would have been a smart move….but then, did our spending so much time shopping divinely allow me to meet god?)

While I have had some Japanese people TRY and put me in a hospital (when you are drooling on their floor and can’t talk it hard to make the argument: “I’m okay!”), it was only yesterday that aside from painkillers I had reached the level where I did not mind, in fact might have welcomed being hospitalized. But, the greatest painkiller is anticipation, distraction and participation (I know this from being an athlete, after a match you are, “When did that giant bruise happen?”). And having deer stick their head into your crotch and start licking up the crumbs that fell there is VERY distracting, very much “in the moment.” It is only later you fall over and mumble, “Oh, where did that truck come from that hit me?”

I have planned tonight and tomorrow as “light days” (you plan one thing…but you keep DOING another!) which means I sit there or sit in the hotel room or sleep while Linda does stuff (such a BIG liar! Like you are used to taking the back seat in life when things are interesting!) and then we both go tomorrow to Miyajima Island to see the shrine and yes, the MONKEYS over there. So hopefully my heart will stop hurting me and my shoulder won’t feel like it is on fire every time I use it and my back will stop throbbing and I will be able to breath without support (uh, no, it is actually much worse and I am on oxy now, but read why in this exciting post!). But I have done all that I planned to and more and have seen and enjoyed more than I believed possible. But of course, I want this to continue and if that means taking it easy and missing a little bit (like another trip to Nara this morning) then that is what has to happen.

So what did I do? I went and posted another seven postcards and some gifts and then we went to the JR station where after getting the elevator and rolling up the “wheelchair entrance” to the south station we are informed that there are only flights of stairs AFTER the wheelchair entrance and now we must go all the way back down and go three blocks to enter another entrance where I get to play “chicken” – a special wheelchair path across the train tracks to a ramp to my platform (trains travel between 100-213 miles an hour – go Beth go!).

We go to Kobe to see the European settlement only once we get out we are so struck by the similarities to Ikebukuro in Tokyo that we decide to go shopping first. We head off toward Animate (the Kobe version) and along the way we find a Purikura sticker parlour. We try a brand new machine which seems to have the theme: “What would my pictures look like if the viewer was on LSD?” – two ice cream sundaes with our heads coming out of them is one of the tamer pictures in the set. Still it was fun to cut and paste and put all sorts of stuff on the photos and see the finished product at which point Linda cried: “Oh fudge! We were going to kiss in this one!”

We wander on the third floor of this huge mall and look for Animate and know we are close when we pass a “Maid CafĂ©” where maids serve you – when I ask if she wants to go Linda says, “we don’t have enough time.” Wow, what a change in attitude, I guess B: lily-rose opened up a whole new world to her. It has a sign saying absolutely no pictures so here is Linda’s.
When we finally found the entrance of Animate on the third floor it was the good section, just the place we were looking for to get some more Yaoi and Yuri postcards. I had been regretting the hurried 15 minutes of shopping in animate on Otome road. We looked around asking for “post cardo” and finally got a young woman I will call Yuki (22-24) who had a decent amount of English. So I asked for Yaoi, but she looked confused which means I was pronouncing it wrong (I pronounced it “Yow!”). So I put up one hand and say “Boy” and the other hand and say “boy” and then my hands start kissing. She immediately makes a “Shhhhhhhhh!” motion with her hands and leans in an says quietly, “Yow! EEE!”

Oh, that’s how you say it! “Hai, Hai! Yaoi postcardo! Yaoi!” I am not exactly shouting but from Yuki’s face she wished to teleport to somewhere else in the store, and down I am guessing from where her gaze was fixed.

She showed me some cells and I had most already and finally a pack of postcards of an anime I hadn’t seen yet, but with 10 cards there was only 2 kissing ones. While Linda found a two picture wallet you send as a gift (it has a place to put the “seal”) and five more postcards – all kissing scenes at half the price so I got that instead. Postcards here seem to be limited prints which are often about 700 yen (seven dollars) and then after the show ends go up to 3,000 yen.

I asked if there was more? Another section as in Tokyo I went to Otome Road. She asked me to say it again and I put the emphasis on the first O and she knew instantly what I was referring to, and I looked her in the eyes and said, “All store full of YAOI!” And she bashful and said no, not so much here, this is all.

So I asked about Yuri. She couldn’t understand me so I said, “Girl and girl kissing!” And she made a bigger “Shhhhhhhhhh!” motion and leaned in and whispered, “You..EEE!”

I’m like, okay, now we’re talking! And ask to be lead to this You..eeee! (Yuri), and she says….there isn’t any. I start listing some of the dozen of yuri anime, like Venus Versus Virus and Strawberry Panic (she claims not to have heard of them) and the private school series? We found the paper of one of the private school lesbian series and she says, “Oh, these just good friends.” But she had led me into this little alley in the store which had lots of female cells and stuff. “Strawberry Marshmellow?” I asked, and she liked that. I told the older sister liked girls and she was like, “No, no, no” while she covered her face.

We asked what the Cells were for and she said that they were to put in notebook or folder cover that you use. I was thinking from her reaction that it must be the INSIDE cover or the notebook you leave at home because I can’t see going to 11th grade and pulling out your notebook showing a teacher (naked) wrapping parts of a student (Also naked) in ribbons (which is one cell I have! And they sold at that store).

Well, I FIND Venus Versus Virus and it is called the same over there and there is a cell with the two characters, one holding the other in her arms. I say, “Yuri” and show it too her. (I even found a Venus Virus towel but couldn’t afford it) She says, “They good friends.”

Ooh, a tough case of denial here. So I find two characters who look like from Strawberry panic who are in panty and bras and embracing and clinging to each other in suggestive ways. I show this to her (And add it to my pile) – she says, “They good friends.”

I was about to give up when I saw a cell for Alice XIII – which has two naked girls and the one on top is soaping up the one underneath who is squealing while the other is laughing and getting into it. I presented this and said firmly, “Yuri!”

She looks at it and says, “I think…..very GOOD friends.”
Linda was there and I pointed to Linda and them to me and said, “She and me, we VERY good friends for Ju-yong years” (14) and by her face it was obvious she knew what we were talking about. Then as Linda and I are debating over getting a strawberry Marshmellow notebook or another of the notebooks I already have (I can’t get this stuff at home!). She says, “I like the Yaoi……and yuri” and we start trading names of different yaoi books and what she has read and go down the line of merchandise and say, “Yuri?” and she wrinkles her nose and I said, “Shoujo-ai I think.” And she nodded (Shoujo-ai is sort of “good friends” with implications!).

Then, there is it a Strawberry Panic alarm clock and it has the name STRAWBERRY panic on it and it has two of the main characters (both girls) kissing on the front of the clock. I grab it and go “Strawberry panic!” and thrust it at her and she reluctantly agrees that yes, it is. And I ask if there is anything else because the last thing I need in my house is anything else that makes noise….like ticking. And there isn’t but I point to the face of the clock and the two girls holding hands as they are full lip lock and say, “good friends?” and she pauses a while and then says, “I like…think so.” So I smile and she smiles and then she tells me to call her and I think she is inviting me home (SWEET! Picked up in Animate in the Yuri aisle!) but then I unpuzzle the sentence and she is saying to call her if I have any problems and she will come help me. …..oh, Yuki….I have SO many problems. This would be when Linda hit me on the back of the head.

We pay for the stuff and Linda hustles me out of there before I can grow any further emotional attachments to either inanimate or animate objects (or people). It has been a while and we have yet to see and “culture” which is why we are ‘supposed’ to be in Kobe so I convince Linda to head to a shrine two blocks away. Linda has a “AWWWWW, not ANOTHER shrine!” attitude until she starts saying “Tokyo Hands!” which is a reference beyond me but means that Linda has lost it until she points and it turns out that Tokyo Hands is essentially 8 stories of stationary and related goods which is LINDA’s version of heaven. We go and by things for the scrapbook, a box to ship things home, and other things (my mind went blank after 30 minutes and within 45 I was gnawing on a limb as animals in traps do in attempts to escape). We FINALLY go to the shrine. And Linda is washing her hands in the sacred water and I am taking a picture. Then I finally notice that the shrine has some VERY IMPORTANT thing happening as there are guys in very tall hats and lots of shrine maidens running around and this woman in a special kimono all surrounded by people in VERY SERIOUS suits. I tell Linda to go ahead and I will wait here with the GIANT bag from Tokyo Hands.

Well, Linda wanders and takes some picture and I am watching the crowd and taking pictures any time a shrine maiden in her red Miko comes into view. I notice that one of the head priest or monk guys in the curled shoes and tall hat is a total photo whore and loves to have people stand beside him while other people take their picture. I think this is something Linda would like and so try to get her attention by waving but she is moving off behind the first shrine taking pictures of who knows what.

A security guard who speaks English approaches me to ask if I am okay and I say that I am waiting for my friend and I can’t get her attention and now she is gone. And is there a way to the temple grounds (I am outside the many steps up to the entry gate)? He says there is and I am following him when everyone starts talking and suddenly the guard and other people are getting me to turn around simply saying, “SHE is coming! SHE is coming!”

Well, this is this woman heavily made up, in a ceremonial way, and wearing a Miko but also this very unusual and special kimono who is followed by a shrine maiden whose job is to carry the train of this woman and make sure her clothes don’t touch the ground. She asks me a questions in Japanese which I recognize and say “Canada.” And she seems impressed and I thank her in Japanese and make the motion to ask if I can take a picture. She however indicates to a security guy that HE is to take a picture of the two of US. Which he does, then she tells him to take another.
Before she leaves, I ask if I can take her picture and she accepts (actually I want a picture of the Shine Maiden behind her too!), and she says some things in Japanese of which I have no idea so I bow as low in my chair as possible and give her the most formal thank you I know and off she goes.
So I ask the guy who works there and speaks English, “Who was that?” He says that today is special festival day, and this is the start of a festival at that shrine in Kobe and that is why all the high priests are there. So, who is the woman in the kimono? I ask. He says that it is Buddhism and starts the prayer; I do it to show him I know it too which is two claps, bow the head and pray and then one clap. He wants to know if I have done this. I tell him, “Kaidan” which means, “many stairs” as to get to the top of the shrine is many stairs so I ask him who the woman is again and he says, “For festival, she is god.”

Now while God being a woman wasn’t a great surprise, I guess the surprise was that she was a bit of a photo hog and tried to make sure her helping shrine maiden didn’t show up in the pictures (vain?). The guy was pretty surprised that she would pass the gate and come down just to see me and I told him that I was…..lucky. I think this word has a different meaning since he said, “Your wish come true…..prayer answered.” Well, I guess I did want to meet God, but it was for more than a photo op. More for questions like, “why is this happening to me?” but hey a good pic is a good pic. Linda of course had emerged from the back shrine where she had been getting another MASSIVE stamp in her book of stamps from Shrines, hotels and old, established businesses. Actually she got some pretty kick ass pictures too including the Fox, which is a shrine guardian and I wanted a picture of but she got to first.
We decided that we wanted to head on to Hemiji but first we had to see these European Houses which were a couple blocks up from us. UP was the operative word as the street became very “San Francisco/Seattle” vertical and I told Linda to go up two blocks and see the major houses and I would meet her at the next corner. I got to the corner, asked directions and realized I missed the corner and went a block too far and I was a block too short, I needed to go up one more. Well this block was at a 25% angle minimum (no shit, even with volunteers and me shouting “one-two-three-four” for each push we all barely made i”) – but I made it up to (thankfully) find Linda (who had the rail passes) and some Victorian/Edwardian European houses which looked like the hundreds of thousands I saw in Europe. I guess if there is only 12 or so in Japan you can charge to go in each one. To us it was, “We did WHAT to see this?” So we went back downtown, got mis-directions from the JR guy, Linda got hit on for 30 straight minutes in her seat away from me (I noticed when the guy asked if I was a co-worker Linda said I was “just a ‘friend’ – Linda says it was to avoid giving info to a creep but oh, the dread “just a friend” title).

It looks like we will be seeing Hemiji Castle in the light rain but I guess you have to get your World Heritage sites as you can. This castle is the most famous, used from Kurosawa to Tom Cruise in the Last Samurai. I won’t be able to tour the castle but Linda will. I will be on the grounds sucking oxy because our hotel a) doesn’t have air con as they promised (just like last hotel) and isn’t quiet as they promised (like last hotel) so each day, a little weaker. Of course going vertical up the side of Kobe might not have helped (I said, “Trust the fucking Euro’s to want to ‘have a view!’” – remember, I had pulled a lot of back and arm muscles at this point). But we did get our Purikuna! Oh, and a visit from god (for me, sucks to be you Linda, all you got was a STAMP…..well except this picture of us together at the shrine).


kathz said...

There's an 8-storey stationery shop!?!?! I must go to Japan at once. (Meeting god seems pretty cool too.)

Laura said...


See, I told you God was a woman!

Yes, I have decided to come out of my shell a little and post a comment or two here and there.

Donimo said...

You-EEE, yow-EEE, zow-EEE, that was SUCH a gay post! I laughed a lot and really enjoyed reading about your interactions with the woman at the store. VERY good friends... they are the best kind. I don't really know the world of anime, but I think I should check it out!

Good thing for digital cameras or we might doubt that you met God. She looks like a lovely person. I wonder what her parting words were to you. You and your skull t-shirt and God!

You might be tired, but your writing is so full of energy and really is so vivid. Get some rest, you! Maybe Linda can push you more often so you can ease your back and shoulder?

cheryl g said...

Meeting god - there's something most vacationers can't claim. I know it's hard Sis but do try to take it easy on the back and shoulder muscles. I know the too small chair isn't helping.

For the overly hot hotel rooms have you tried sleeping in your vest? Do the hotels have ice available. I would recommend using ice packs to drop your core temp for sleeping.

I can't wait to ogle all the cool anime stuff you're getting!

saraarts said...

Not surprised that god is a woman OR that she is vain and wants all the attention for herself with none for her helpers. It's kind of how she gets written about (except that when western men write about her she becomes a man, too, so I always assumed the vanity was also a projection).

Hope you get plenty of rest so you can have more adventures tomorrow. :)

Meanwhile, I have to tell you, the Animate shop girl makes me think of an old Michelob ad jingle:

"Here's to good friends.
Tonight is kind of special..."

heh heh

Dawn Allenbach said...

God knows that no one would believe that you had met her without the photos. You heathen! *grin*

Marla said...

Amazing photos. I am so proud of you both. You dreamed it, planned it and despite everything you are there! Enjoy!

Raccoon said...

You've have private dances with shrine maidens and have met God. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say Goddess? You've had deer try to get your engine running. You've had pretty Japanese women pose for you in kimonos, and help you buy yuri post cards.

You're having a great time, we can tell, but take a day off if you can, to recuperate. Let Linda wander by herself a day. We want you to still be able to blog at the end of the trip!


Amanda said...

I'm so envious of the awesome booty you are raking in. *winks*

I'm glad to hear that the visits are getting better, but do "try" to take it easy. *grins* Easier said than done, I know.

I love the pic of you and Linda together. It's a beautiful shot.

Gaina said...

It's a real eye-opener for me to see how they have lesbian Anime (don't shoot me for using the wrong word, I'm clueless about all that) on public display. I am impressed but very surprised as I always saw thought Japanese might be very repressed about homosexuality (although my discovery of Shunga some years ago should have told me they aren't exactly shy when it comes to erotica! Haha).

I love that last pic of you and Linda at the Shrine :)

yanub said...

It's only taken me a week to recover from last weekend, and all I did was go to the zoo, attend an anniversary supper, and spend several hours housecleaning. Well, and then go to work all week (yay! I didn't miss work!) Still, I seriously didn't know how you were doing it, managing to get out there and tour Japan every day.

And now I know. You have an "in" with God. Some people. Hmmph.