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I don't think I like traveling in large tourist-like groups any more.
Today closed out my big three-day weekend of travel and photography with a Godzilla-themed trip that took a couple of turns. The underlying theme was the complete lack of speed or apparent direction in the trip, which was primarily organized by one of the course's students but directed by one of the organizers and her Tokyo guide book.
The trip started in the bustling youth district of Shibuya with a visit to the Tokyo Energy Museum. For reasons that I can't quite understand, the museum has welcomed a temporary exhibit about the history of Godzilla amidst its otherwise ordinary exhibits about power generation and distribution. On display were several costume pieces, a few animatronic models, and a tape playing trailers from Godzilla films from the 1950s through 2000's "Godzilla Millennium." As the production values improve, Godzilla movies arguably get worse due to the inclusion of cheesy CG animation and even romantic elements. Hollywood's 1998 adaptation of the franchise (tagline: "Size does matter") is considered to be one of the worst Godzilla movies, since the directors took the modern disaster movie formula and plugged a giant lizard into it. Regardless, it was an interesting exhibit. Maybe I should actually see a Godzilla movie to better understand all fo this.
The group congregated for about five to ten minutes in front of the elevators doing nothing. We were supposedly waiting for an empty elevator, but even when one came the group was slow to move. Without leaders to bring us from place to place effectively, this sort of thing became extremely annoying throughout the day. The worst part was that we were constantly blocking foot traffic in one of the world's most fast-paced cities. Since the ICU helpers in attendance are all quite familiar with the city, I can't understand why the pace was so sluggish.
From there, it was an unlikely subway ride to Koto-ku, a place which has nothing whatsoever to do with Godzilla but which featured lunch. Lunch selection was by committee, but for once I completely distanced myself from the discussion. Already fairly tired from walking through the summer heat and humidity, I gave the organizers a simple plan as I did the previous day in Asakusa: take me to a restaurant, allow me to get food, and I will eat. I told them that I would eat anything for any price. File that one under "Things I never would have said before coming here."
After lunch, it was on to a nearby temple to do the whole tourist thing, including group photos with twenty different cameras that shut off automatically before they come up in the queue. At that point I decided to stop standing still for 25 minutes at a time while photos were being taken.
A nice find: not too far from the Koto temple was a shrine with a large flea market set up outside. With dozens of tables selling all sorts of antique goods, it was the perfect place to finish up my souvenir shopping. Just in time, too: I have no idea how I'll fit all this stuff into my bags.
The Koto trip was defined by sitting, trying to find something else to do, standing around, waiting for someone to buy something, standing around, asking where we're going next, and getting no response. Eventually we walked across the district to a history museum that provided a nice insight into the past world of Tokyo. Despite the fact that the museum was basically one large room, most of our group took pictures of each other in various poses by various exhibits until the museum closed 45 minutes later. In my case, this led to long stretches of sitting around doing nothing.
Finally, we headed to Hibiki for the anticlimactic finish to our trip: a Godzilla statue about one meter tall near an office park. After taking eighty photos of it, we sat around for 15 minutes before splitting up and heading home. Having missed dinner at home, I grabbed some dinner on the way back and felt a little less bitter about how dismally slow the day went.
Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was dehydration, or maybe it was just the people obsessed with group photos. Any way you slice it, I didn't have fun today. I did take plenty of pictures on my own, without waiting for people to do the silly peace-sign pose or look at me. I also declined the chance to pose for photos to be taken with my camera, since I don't really want any pictures of myself looking exhausted and pissed-off standing with six people whose names I'll forget tomorrow.
There are still two weeks left in the course, and there's a festival on Saturday. I'll probably go with a few friends to enjoy the fun and take pictures of people who I actually know.
For a country which prides itself on recycling efforts, bakeries must have missed a few memos. Today for breakfast, I bought two small doughnuts at a bakery. The doughnuts were then wrapped in wax paper and placed into a small bag. The small bag in turn was placed into a larger bag, and I was given a receipt to prove for my records that I bought two doughnuts. The crumpled-up mass of packaging was larger than the doughnuts that I bought.
With all my exhaustion and negativity, I decided to try Taiko no Tatsujin 3 on the highest difficulty setting for the first time. I stumbled my way through the first song, failing it miserably. That didn't help my mood any.
The rains came through and drenched Tokyo again this evening, but I got home when they were just a slight drizzle.
Promotional trains have been cropping up around Tokyo, similar to the bus sponsorships being done more and more often in the U.S. These promotional trains bear exclusive sponsorships from Pokemon, and in one case Tabasco (the "spicy train"). Of course, I have pictures of these.
I'm working on a prototype of Weill in Japan's dedicated web site, centered around these daily write-ups but also including photos and more original writing. It will launch in September or October. If there's something you want to see, or if you know a good Japan-travel web site I should know about, send me a message.
The weekend ended on a bit of a down note, but I'm still ready to go for week five. As long as I can get back into positive mood territory, I'll be okay.