Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Footloose in Tokyo

Where Old is New

A bar was added to this public
bath house which now does 
double duty as a concert venue.
Kichijoji, Tokyo - Here old and new worlds have collided in a big bang that is taking downscale to new heights.  A tony leather bag shop coexists in synergistic harmony next to an open-air fish monger hawking marine gizzards and other pedestrian seafood favorites. A local artist has found a niche above a sewing supplies shop to call a gallery. The entire market is a living, breathing place where art and life blend seamlessly together. It's urban renewal gone organic and it's all good.

Kickin' It Kichijoji Style

Shoeless Shopping

Oh to feel the air molecules freely flowing through your toes as you peruse a plethora of products for purchase. This is what they must mean when they speak of the virtues of the free market.

It's customary in Japan for guests to remove their shoes at the foyer (genkan) before walking into the host's home. The same goes for schools, doctors' and dentists' offices, as well as some workplaces, where according to protocol, upon entering the building you slip out of those shoes you've been schlepping all around town in and into some more comfy slippers (either your own or those provided at the door). The shoes are either neatly aligned facing outwards toward the portico or stowed away in a little cubbyhole (getabako) designed exclusively for this purpose.

This is the first time we've seen the practice extended to a shopping emporium and never have we seen the shoes lined up outside the door. It was quite a remarkable sight for those of us who hail from a country where people have killed one another over a pair of Nikes. They were all here, free for the taking if one were so inclined. We still wonder about it. Could the store have been so crowded that there just wasn't a cubby left for patrons to park their soles?

We'll never know. We were in too much of a hurry to get to this recital to unearth the mystery behind all that footwear. On our way home from the recital we kind of forgot all about the shoeless store. That's mostly because we were instinctively drawn like bees to honey by this long line that snaked around the corner. We just had to buy whatever they were selling on the other end.

We "discovered" later that they were 
selling meat and potato croquettes.

That is until we spied three Japanese cowboys decked out in authentic western ware, from the top of their ten gallon Stetsons to the tips of their Tony Lamas, hightailing it through the market. These three caballeros had to be off to somewhere interesting (maybe a Japanese rodeo) so we followed their trail until they gave us the slip at the bus depot. Having lost track of our prey we headed back into town with our tails between our legs.

We had to bring back something to show for our day's outing so we settled for artisanal Japaneses pickles...

The dudes with the bleached-blond hair had
 tattoos so I was afraid to take their picture.

sold by some of the hippest looking traditional pickle makers (a couple with bleached-blond hairdos) on the planet. It was the perfect souvenir of Kichijoji, a combination of sweet and sour, old and new all wrapped up into one.

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