I was heading to my long-awaited pedicure this morning in Harajuku walking along Meiji-dori to Shibuya station when I noticed something odd: scores of older men walking purposefully away from the station. When I say purposefully, I mean with intent. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Some obviously retired blue-collar workers. Others perhaps ‘salarymen’ and a few old drunks clutching their jars of sake or plastic bottles of Jim Beam. All with newspapers and most with the ubiquitous Japanese man-purse or zippered pouch. I followed them. It was just after 9am and I figured I had a bit of time (only had to go one stop on the Yamanote Line) to get to Harajuku by 10am. They were streaming towards a place called WINS. I figured it was some sort of casino or pachinko parlour (weird Japanese pinball game that I still haven’t figured out) but there was no music or flashing lights which are always found with pachinko. Anyway, I didn’t have time to actually go inside, not that I would have as there was nary a female in sight.
Fast forward to my lovely pedicure with Minami at Boudoir Tokyo’s first bi-lingual salon. We’re chatting away and it turns out she lives in my neighbourhood so I asked her about the old men heading to WINS. She was puzzled at first but then understanding dawned. “Horses,” she said. “They play, you know, for money. Racing.” Ah yes, it all became clear. The newspapers were the racing sheets and the old dudes were off to place their bets and hang with their buddies. They’re likely sent out of the house by their wives who often find their husband’s retirement a difficult adjustment since a typical employee works six days a week and sleeps on Sunday, leaving the household and family management completely up to the wife. (Yup. The apron-wearers control the money.) However, the wives often become naturally resentful when the absentee husband is suddenly home ALL the time taking up space, demanding food and generally cramping her style after never being around.
By the way, I don’t think there are actual horses IN that building in the middle of Tokyo, but I’m going to check it out next Sunday 😉
Gomi-bakko = old retired men that clutter up the house and get in the way; literally “old garbage.”
I forgot how small everything is here. No storage. They sell eggs in packs of four. No oven. Sharing with six other people. One shelf, one storage basket and one shelf in the fridge. Two burners, one microwave, one toaster/grill/potentially explosive device. No rice cooker and the blender is broken. It seems that a lot of people (Japanese people not just the idiot foreigners) eat at 7-11 (the ‘conbini’= convenience store) and there’s no shame in that here. I’ve found Greek yogurt, green tea and English muffins as well as chopped pineapple and affordable grapefruit. Though last night we did got to 7-11…ramen noodles, seaweed chips and carrot ice cream. Going to get more organized today seeing as they do keep track of the girls’ measurements–the clothes are a lot smaller here. Most of the girls eat pretty well especially the older more experienced models; the young ones tend to choose pasta and toast in a pinch. Can’t say that I blame them…easy, cheap and recognizable comfort food. You can get awesome sushi at the supermarket though for about $4… Just takes a little organization. And the toaster/grill thing scares me. It is gas and doesn’t always light quickly… Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t even light the barbecue because I harbour a deep distrust of propane. So you can imagine me making toast…
After last night’s culinary adventure with tomato ice cream, tonight I really walked on the wild side with carrot. Not bad… To be honest, they taste mostly like fruit with vegetable high notes. Karis got ripple chips flavoured with what I suspect was seaweed. Not surprising really since we are in Japan. Also got some great fast foods suggestions from friends…most were yucky and just BIG but I must say the Wendy’s Surf and Turf did sound mildly appealing. Sadly it was a promo item only 😦
It’s the motorcycle from Sleeping Beauty’s castle and it’s just down the street from me! And it looks like it’s got the bicycle next to joining in. Very cool and sort of unexpected here where it’s all pretty tidy…though I have to say it overgrown in a very tidy way….
This is about a block away in front of a flower shop. Somehow it’s just so much tidier than the yarn in my country. Just like most things Japanese…small country, lots of people: have to stay organized.
UPDATE: I walk past this place every day. The yarn is actually decorating a stairway up to a restaurant called the good meals shop. They’ve added new yarn (see above). I think it’s the owner’s wife that does the knitting. She was there with their lovely baby today, knitting in hand. The owner/chef passes out flyers every day between 3-4. He gave me three and now recognizes me (not a ton of non-Japanese in the neighbourhood) and just says hello/konnichiwa instead of giving me another flyer. We decided to go and try the restaurant today. It was very yummy and a nice change from sushi and fried things. Check out the menu @: http://flyingcircus.jp/gms/food-gms/
We had the trio of dips (hummus, spinach yogurt, black olive and pine nut), the anchovy garlic toast (in honour of my dad who loved anchovies) and the mac and cheese. Then we went to 7-11 for dessert…Karis flipped when she found the waffle ice cream sandwich…apparently she’s been looking for them. Happy Saturday night everyone 😉