8am in Tokyo (4pm LA time). I got about six hours of sleep last night, and I'm feeling pretty good right now. (Of course, I just downed an excellent double espresso, so the caffeine is talking right now.)
Despite the typhoon warnings, Yesterday's weather couldn't have been better. The sky was blue, the temperature was mild. I guess the typhoon ran out of juice really fast.
I woke up spaced-out and stupid. I looked in the mirror and was surprised at how glassy my eyes looked. But I wanted to travel around the city, to do some research on the article I'm writing. First, though, I wanted to go to Harajuku and Yoyogi park to take pictures of those crazy kids in the their Elegant Gothic Lolita and Trappist Monk – Rocket Scientist Hybrid getups. I didn't see too many, but I took some pictures of a few kids, who studiously ignored me, the big dopey gawking gaijin with a camera.
But my heart wasn't in it. I was much more interested in checking out the official uniforms almost everyone in Japan wears. Of course the schoolkids all wear uniforms. The girls have the traditional sailor uniforms, and a lot of the boys have these dark blue Chinese-looking jackets with the cylindrical collars and big round buttons. (Why are so many schoolkids always walking around in the middle of the day here? Don't they have classes to attend? Do they get breaks from school at odd hours that allow them to roam the streets?)
I saw a large crowd of "Beauty College" students pouring out of a building. They looked about 17 years old. About half were boys. They had nifty two-tone smock-like uniforms. They raced each other into a 7-Eleven and filled the place up. I took some great pictures of them packed in there.
I went the the big park near Harajuku (Meji something) and saw a worker in a smart gray uniform and pith helmet raking up leaves from the wide, tiny-pebbled, path leading to the Shinto temple. His rake was hand-made bamboo, and the business end of it fanned out about three feet. He had a large woven basket filled with other wooden park-cleaning implements, that looked like the came from the 17th century. I love the way Japan mixes ancient stuff with the brand new.
Back in the shopping area of Harajuku, another uniformed guy was on his knees, wiping one of the ubiquitous outdoor vending machines. He was making the surface *squeak*. After that, I noticed all the vending machines were spotless. The Japanese love to keep things clean. (The day before, two people in yellow raincoat uniforms were walking down a narrow shopping street, picking up wet cigarette butts with poles that have pincers on the end, and depositing the butts in a plastic bag. They were obsessive about it. They didn't even have Walkmans on. — they were focusing solely on getting every last cigarette butt picked up.)
I spent the rest of the day taking pictures of people in different uniforms. It seems like they have at least four varieties of cops here, judging by the color and style of their caps and jackets.
I was looking forward to getting back to my hotel room so I could upload a "Uniforms of Japan" photo gallery. I am using some new software to deal with digital images, and when I extracted the images from the camera, the application zapped all 45 photos from the camera's memory stick. A full day of photo taking, gone in an electrostatic femtosecond. (I'm not going to say which application it is until I get an explanation from the guy who wrote it.)
I'm headed back to the US today, so unless something bizarre happens on the train to Narita, this will be my last Japan Journal dispatch.
Your faithful scribe — Mark