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Last Tango in Tokyo

The flash from Fuji summit


hamaguri no
futami ni wakare
yuku aki zo


Dividing like clam
and shell, I leave for Futami—
Autumn is passing by

I'm like a clam pulled apart
Its body ripped from the shell
Looking back, leaving you
With the passing of the autumn
Onward to Futami!

Matsuo Bashô (松尾芭蕉)
Final poem in Oku no Hosomichi; it can be read a number of different ways.
Futami is the rope-linked wedding-rocks at Ise-Shima, and the site of one of Shinto's foremost shrines...

Extended photoblog with many chapters:
We returned to Tokyo from Kyoto by local train a couple of days ago. As we passed Fuji city on the coast, Fuji-san mountain, the lady renowned for her shyness, finally revealed herself to us. Her summit was just poking out of the clouds as the train came round the coastal hills into the bay, but in the few moments we crossed by, the clouds opened up and separated and her form was revealed, and at the last moment the setting Sun was reflected in a glint of the shrine and shelter on the summit ridge.

Sakano at Yoshida

Returning to our two bunk room at Yoshida at about 8.30 pm was the next thing to a home coming. Sakano, the proprietor was still there to greet us, protesting mildly that he had wanted to go because he had a friend staying at his home, waving a note he had written saying "Dear Chris KIng - I welcome the Second Coming" - finessing the fact it was actually our third visit.

Yoshida is absolutely covered in greenery and creepers !

Yoshida House has been a real home to us. We have stayed three times and come back again and again because we know and like the people here and the house and Oizumi Gakuen are a really nice place to be when in Tokyo. Sakano has been both patient and helpful and our contact with Shon catalysed the most creative phase of our travel round rural Japan. Above all we love to be in a house covered in creepers and green plants in the biggest concrete jungle on the planet.


In contrast to our waking life phased the Sun on the road in the Mitsubishi, our time in Tokyo has been wholly under the banner of the night. The first evening here we set off to see the love hotels of Dogenzaka hill in Shibuya and the red light district of Kabukicho in Shinjuku.

In Kyomachi
a cat prowling for love
heads for Ageyamachi

Takarai Kikaku (1661-1707, also known as Enomoto Kikaku) was one of Basho's leading disciples. Kikaku preferred the city and the opportunities it provided for extravagant play. Kyomachi and Ageyamachi were districts inside the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters of Edo.

Crowded in Shibuya

The trains were absolutely packed to overflowing and as we arrived in Shibuya, the streets were so crowded that there was barely room on the sidewalk, giving a feeling of utter claustrophobia. The evening is a time when Japanese who have been working hard all day can go to town shopping so it can be even more crowded than rush hours.

Love Hotel Two-way

The love hotels were colourful additions to our collection, garish and blatantly offering different prices for a tryst or a night's sleep, all automated so you can register and use the available rooms without any human eyes falling on you.

Automated booking window
with separate charges for 'rest' and 'stay'.

But they are also discrete enough that they don't look like they are bawdy brothels, after a 1980s court ruling that curtailed the more blatant extremes forcing many to masquerade as 'business hotels'.

Foyer Two-way

The 'Two-Way" sported a luxurious foyer, like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, with the front window adorned with Amazonian love birds, and the hall sporting New Guinea masks.

Pink Cabaret trounces the Blue Movie

The red light district is similarly shielded from immediate view, so you only get a bare taste of it from the street with curtain-clad screens covered in Kanji and Katakana hiding most of the pleasures inside, ranging from the usual 'massage parlours' referred to as 'soap lands', through bottomless cafes, to cabarets with erotic acts inviting audience participation.

Kabukicho angels for hire

Intriguing was the prevalence of establishments offering male 'models' with teased haircuts, as frequent as the galleries of barbie doll girls, something which makes an intriguing commentary on Japanese sexual relations.

Those delectable naughty samurai boys! CNN News Article

Last night taking a different turn we went to an evening festival at KIshimojo Shinto shrine in Ikebukuro, or Zoshigaya Kishimojindo, dedicated to yet another Goddess of fertility and childbirth Kishimojin, a gold clad jinja surrounded in ancient ginko trees tucked away in a labrynth of side streets. As we arrive outside the Seibu Department store, we realized the procession was already under way with large lanterns powered by portable generators being wheeled to the main thoroughfare Meiji-dori, coalescing into a long train of giant lanterns interspersed with drumming groups, led by a pipe and glockenspiel band and dancers.

Festival lanterns whirled

At 7 pm the procession took off to loud fireworks crashing above the high rise neon-clad buildings, and a deafening combination of loud drumming, police whistles and traffic noise, overlaid with the lanterns, now being actively hurled around in combination with whirlygigs consisting of streamers on poles which the guys took it in turns to energize in a kind of virility dance.

Whirling the whirlygigs to flat skin drumming

After donning industrial ear plugs we followed the procession through the crowds down Meiji-dori and into the narrow side streets which eventually led right up to the shrine, giving another taste of claustrophobia as everyone, the procession, onlookers and the neighbourhood faithful converged on the shrine entrance lined with brightly coloured sausage stalls and red and white lanterns.

The throng passing through the shrine

Each team performed on the steps and gained a blessing from the priests and the entourage then mover in a loop back down the shrine steps and off to one side where a lantern lined avenue led on to the local Buddhist temple, Homyoji, where the teams were all blessed again after yet another tattoo of drumming and whirling, in a short reading of sutras before disbanding into the night.

Today is packing day and making the multi-stage transit from Oizumi gakuen, our quiet residential neighbourhood on the North Western fringes of Tokyo to Narita, a city 45 kms East, making at least two changes of train after dragging our overload baggage on a trolley the mile or so to the station, grateful even to spend the night sleepless in the plane at the thought of having a whole house to wander through and a comfortable bed to sleep in on our return.

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