Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Yes, this is still Earth

So, way back when, I was walking up and down this street in Japan. I was looking for something (can't remember what, but then, I can't remember much of anything that happens, now that I've become a mom. Brain power: zero.) I was on this street, which was a covered shopping area about a block long. The cover high above was opaque but let through a filtered sunlight and had a pink tint to it, bathing the whole area in a pink light. Intermittently, there were brilliant green slats, and they broke up the rose colored world.

The shopping venues seemed like a carnival, with mylar Hello! Kitty balloons, everything available in all pastel choices, and playing be-bop happy music as I walked. Stores had designer clothing, raw fish with their eyes staring out at me, pachinko parlors, ceramic good luck cats with a single paw held up by the cats' faces in greeting. There was a little shrine in one alcove.

Teenagers squatted in clusters, low on their haunches, with spiky and wildly colored hair and skin tight jeans, smoking or playing jan ken po (rock paper scissors) competitively, and laughing raucous laughter--for Japanese people, who are generally pretty soft spoken.

One street vendor had a cart like a hot dog cart, and atop it in steaming tins of water floated white tubes and triangles and circles. They were spotted brown, like tortillas are. I didn't dare try them--and when they were lifted out with tongs, they instantly shrunk to about 2/3 their size. (Later I learned they were something like fish stick hot dogs, but I didn't find that out while I was in Japan, so I never got brave enough to try the magical shrinking geometry.)

Every few feet there were vending machines--with bottled beer, rice, batteries, beetles, cigarettes, huge bottles of Fanta soda pop, underwear, farm fresh eggs. You name it, it could be had from the vending machine.

The music piped in through the street's speakers switched to "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother." The place smelled of incense and fish and old rain.

It was so different from the dry, broad-sky place where I grew up. So far away, in so many ways. And beautiful and strange at once. I tried my best to take it all in, and I am sure there are a thousand details I can't recall, and maybe some I'm blending in from a different street, but it was a feeling and a place at the same time.

Beautiful and foreign and strange.

I can't wait to go back.

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