Tokyo Diary – The Flea-Market at Togo-Jinja

Taxi drivers in Tokyo are a dignified sort.  Most wear ties and coats, or vests. Their cabs are immaculate and they know exactly where they are going.  I was warned that cabs were prohibitively expensive in Tokyo, but that isn’t really true.  They are not as costly as those in London and they’re maybe a little higher than New York, but they know where the fuck they are going, which saves you time and money.

Our guy took us to Harajuku, which is dominated by a youth-culture shopping strip full of the fashionable kids from this city.  Their fashion does not seem any odder, or frankly, all that different from American teenagers, which is to say, they look as earnestly stupid as any other teenager.  Among the young women, there is a tendency toward the babydoll sex object look, which is more than a little disturbing, but for the most part, the tights-with-shorts-and-a-shit-load-of-mascara-look seems to be the thing for young women of this district, which is heavily consumerist.  There is lots of hip-hop influenced stuff and bad Don Ed Hardy knock-off shirts, there are snack-shops selling combinations of food I wouldn’t  chance.  A sausage and egg pastry seems like a culinary trend collision to me, and not the kind of thing that should also include….frosting.  Harajuku is charming just for its blinding energy and color, and for all of the youth culture present, you don’t really notice any gang or drug activity.  Tokyo is well-policed.  They aren’t in your face.  They are very present and polite, but they are everywhere.

At the end of this strip is a stairway that takes you into a bucolic and lovely park called Togo-Jinja.  Today was the weekly flea market there and it was lovely and full of color and hard-bargaining.  Men and women who are old pros at this flea market business. . .you can only dicker so much with them.  I never try to “bargain“; I just pay what is asked, if I want the thing they have. But I witnessed some real theater between some of the Japanese bargain hunters.  Nobody ever raises their voice, but there is plenty of back and forth and it can go on for a long time until a deal or acceptable compromise is reached.  You know this when one, or both, of the parties exhorts a curt “Hi” and a brief bow is made.  I watched two very attractive women go at it over a tea set for about 5 minutes in a quiet but very heated parley until they reached some agreement, only to break into a musical kind of laughter when the deal was done.  If you’d been there, you’d know how magical, and funny, and full of humanness it was.  Sometimes words are merely inadequate.

I found a treasure trove of scraps; things loaded and charged with another history, not my own, things loaded with the poetry of. . .chance.  I cannot wait to start working with these treasures.  These things made with paper convey so much.  It is as if each thing is a message of fortunate circumstance, a thing  waiting for a new definition.  For me, they are scraps loaded with hope; the pieces too short to save and too beautiful to throw away.

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