hoo boy, japan.  last stop on this trip and undoubtedly memorable already, for the combination of familiarity and strangeness, for being the first place i’m visiting where i don’t speak the language at all (and i mean at all – france was nothing compared to this), for the hole-in-the-floor toilets, which are something like recessed urinals.  without any kind of apparatus for steadying yourself – bar, prayer rope, athletic rings hanging from the ceiling, nothing – so you better have good balance.

 

it looks like uploading photos will be difficult while i’m here, so they will have to come in very small installments, and/or later.

 

the guy who’s hosting me at the museum, whom we shall call ika-san (japanese for ‘dr squid’), is someone i have met several times and is good fun.  although he did take me from the train station yesterday straight into work, walking literally past the front door of my hotel on the way to the museum, with all my luggage.  (‘what do you mean, you just flew across the planet and you want a shower?  there are IMPORTANT SQUID TO SEE!’)

 

and speaking of my hotel.  it’s mostly fine – cleanish (only one small cockroach so far), extremely conveniently located two minutes’ walk from the museum, corner room so i get cross-ventilation, which is excellent considering that the heating doesn’t turn off and it’s about 65 degrees outside during the day, western toilet (never to be undervalued again!), and with a decent shower, albeit in a ‘tub’ that is mid-thigh-deep but about the size of a normal shower stall.  and there is a tiny fridge for storing any small accumulations of groceries i might care to keep cool. 

 

which brings us to food.  i debated being vegetarian for this part of the trip because there are a lot of relatively staple japanese foods i don’t eat, like, oh, seafood.  so far the score between ‘this was an accident but tastes good’ and ‘i’m eating this to be polite’ is tied.  last night i went out to dinner with ika-san and had a tempura set, which was mostly very tasty, but did include shrimp (with a side of conscience pangs) and something i think, but try not to, might have been a moray eel fillet.  having had an airplane ‘breakfast’ and a bowl of ramen noodles for lunch, i was hungry enough to eat everything except most of the potential moray. 

 

there is also a convenience store across from my hotel where i’ve been doing most of my food shopping, with reasonable success so far because i can stand and scrutinize (inscrutable) labels for a while before purchasing.  so far i’ve managed to organize a decent breakfast (well, two danishes – i chickened out on the traditional japanse breakfast which, according to ika-san, involves rice, miso soup and some fish), yesterday’s ramen noodles, and another bowl of noodles for lunch today.  and i’ve just come back from my first dinner on my own, which was a partial success.  i had planned to have don-katsu (pork cutlet), because it has the huge double advantages of me being able to say it and enjoy eating it.  but i managed to find a place that was displaying it in the window but mysteriously didn’t serve it.  so i pointed at something else on the menu that looked like potatoes and dumplings, but proved in fact to be tempura mushrooms (score one for ‘accidental but tasty’).  i studied a few phrases while eating, so i was able to say ‘that was good’ in japanese by the end.  i think this surprised the waitress, after my caveman-like point-and-grunt ordering routine.  on the way home, after giggling quietly to myself for a few blocks after passing the ‘bee snop’ (unfortunate result of different-sized letters letters on the sign), i bought what turned out to be a delicious ice cream bar packed inside a waffle-wafer-type crispy coating with chocolate on the inside. 

 

and now i plan to sleep for another 11 hours.

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