We awoke this morning to rain. No big surprise there since it has done nothing but rain the entire time we have been here… except for the one day the sun peered out from behind a typhoon and we made a break for Disney. Throughout my entire stay here I have been noticing the slight differences in the societies and those differences are very apparent even on something as simple as a rainy day. Tokyo Japan is an umbrella city. While we have been adjusting to the extreme heat indoors, the differences outdoors have been fluctuating greatly.
When we first arrived here, the weather was nice and comfortably warm but it quickly turned to too damn cold. Especially with the rain, it was cold and wet and we were mildy thankful for the blast of hot air when you walk indoors.
Tokyo is an umbrella city. Since so much travel is foot travel, umbrellas are commonplace and it’s more uncommon to NOT see an umbrella than it is to see one. I suppose the bigger cities in the US turn into umbrella cities when rainy. I suppose Seattle, Chicago, NY, it’s probably commonplace in foot traffic areas. But in Tokyo, everyone has an umbrella by their side at every point of the day. For good reason. Especially late in October. it gets cold and it gets very wet.
So we awoke to the first day of just pouring down rain and had to purchase umbrellas to make it through the day to get to our last day of TIFFCOM. It’s so commonplace here there is actual things you do with your umbrella before going into a building. Every 7-11 and Family Mart and Supermarket has umbrellas for sale just inside their front doors, for about $4 each. EVERY store. And yes, there are 7-11s here. Thousands of them. SO, purchasing an umbrella is easy peasy. Using it can be tricky. Navigating it through crowds of busy umbrellas on their way to work proved to be a little more work than you would think. But, because this is an umbrella city, there are also certain customs and unwritten rules you follow.
Every store or building either has a rack out front that you leave your umbrella in while you shop, or, Connie’s favorite is this little machine with a cylindrical hole at the top and you stick your umbrella in and pull it out wrapped in a plastic bag. It also has a special recycling slot right next to it, so when you are finished with your umbrella condom, you can toss it out. It’s a pretty cool and simple device.
We made out way up Roppongi Hills and had the last of our meetings today. I was on fire and had my statement down. But, as I said yesterday, it was a seller’s market and they weren’t there for any of my bullshit. I did have one fantastic meeting with a woman who was very open to networking and learning all she could about the project. She was very helpful in offering advice. Some too little too late advice but advice nonetheless. She put out that she knew a filmmaker who did the exact thing I did, at the previous TIFFCOM and he was late tot he game and simply asked the organizers to help him out, because of he had traveled this far to be here. Connie and I both went, “duh, should have thought of that before 3 pm on the last day” Big fuck up on my part. But, lesson learned. She also provided me with the guy’s name since he knows people who knows people in order to get things done. Her meeting alone, along with the visit with the Japanese actors on the first day, made my visit worthwhile. We now can formulate an action plan for putting this project together and getting the people to come to us looking for it. So, as soon as we get home, the planning begins to do this next year.
I know that next year, we won’t stay so long. We were ready to go home yesterday. At least I was. I had finished what I had set out to do. And, even though it may not have gotten anywhere, it was still a learning process and was the first step of getting this movie made.
After the meetings we strolled back through the pouring rain. Connie turned her umbrella inside out, so we’ll see how long that lasts us… probably not much longer! We spent a good deal of time in the hotel after, just tired and bored with the rain and spent. We found out a family friend was in Tokyo visiting her daughter and… is around the corner. Like, literally around the corner. So Connie spent some time contacting her back and forth on FB just to get her info and we will meet with her this morning for a little while.
It grew to be pretty late, so we decided that we were tired of being cooped up and went out to do some shopping for gifts for family and friends, and also get more supplies to get us through the next two days… coffee (which is primarily instant here! The Japanese are on the go so all the drinks in this city are on the go drinks.) Our umbrellas in tow and catching in the wind every step of the way we made our walk back up to Roppongi Square and down the street to our favorite little discount superstore Don Quijote, or Donki Kingdom.
One of the major differences in shopping here in Tokyo is that everything goes up. Where in America, our Walmarts take up thousands of acres, in Tokyo, they build UP not out. Every building is 6 floors of stuff. Usually every floor is a different bar or club or sexy nightclub… which we saw a couple girls rushing to work last night in the rain and oof. wow. umm. yeah. there’s a reason those girls get paid so handsomely.
Donki is no different. It is 6 floors of EVERYTHING you could possibly want. And I mean everything. From groceries, to high end jewelry, to vibrating condoms and high priced glass dildos, to japanese fighting beyblades and Star Wars lightsaber chopsticks. And it’s all crammed into about 2 square feet of space.
One thing is VERY apparent. There is no kneeling to the handicapped in Tokyo. There are not business guidelines and zoning laws to give the same freedoms to the handicapped. Everything is tightly packed and crammed in to every possible nook and cranny in any store. Even the tables in restaurants are uncomfortably close together. Donki is no different. For the most part the stuff here is reasonably priced, in terms of yen. We learned early on to stop comparing the cost to how much it is American. Because it’s sickening and it makes you want to not buy anything and save your money. But you have no choice. Things need to be purchased.. .like food. And what is reasonably priced in terms of yen is still outrageous in American dollars. But, that’s the price you pay.
So despite being crammed and cramped and spinning around with a basket in your hand will mean that you are knocking something to the ground, Donki is a fun place to visit. There’s sooo much to look at and shop for. We have been there just about every day, since it’s on our walk back to the hotel. We have picked up groceries, and band-aids for Connie’s feet, and last night we did some gift shopping.
And, this morning, as I sit here and write this, I am reminded of something long since forgotten in our way of life. The smell of cigarettes on your clothes the next day, after eating in a restaurant with a smoking section. There are no whiny bitching Americans here to stop the smoking in public places and most restaurants don’t have the smoking sections figured out. They are just haphazardly placed wherever. We ate at Subway a few days ago and inadvertently ate in the smoking section. We ate in a restaurant and the place was filled with smoke. On our way home last night, we stopped at a TGI Fridays for a good old American desert. Ice cream and brownies. And we were no where near the smoking section and today… my clothes stink to high heaven. You don’t realize how bad it used to be until you re-live it again. It is not a bad thing that smoking disappeared from restaurants and public places. America, you are doing that right.
With the rain still pounding down we made our way back to the hotel, Connie’s umbrella bent and twisted from the wind and my hands ful with an umbrella in one and a giant bag of loot from Donki.
We have today with nothing planned except doing some shopping for the kids and trying to find last minute gifts for everyone before heading back home on Saturday morning. Out flight leaves at 4:30 pm on Saturday… and arrives in NY at 4:00 pm on saturday. The time traveling can still be mind bending.