Because I’m so exhausted I’ll forget everything if I don’t write it down.
Week-before-last I tried to make reservations for the Imperial Palace tour thing – the only day that wasn’t full was at 10:00 today. As noted, this is My Last Full Day In Tokyo. I said “fine” and made the reservation. I woke up today feeling crappy and nearly reconsidered several times, especially when Mr. Creepybastard was in the shower when I got up at 7:30, and didn’t come out for forty-five minutes. He got back in after I got out.
The palace is about an hour-and-a-half trip away, so this pretty much destroyed my safety margin – I didn’t even stop at a convenience store to get something for breakfast, and was I still barely in time. The policeman I asked for directions to the Kikyomon, after running down the street and across the crosswalk, laughed at me. This probably happens to him every day.
The tour is very weird. They made us watch a grainy video first, which was mostly a montage of the places we were going to visit, with brief descriptions in Japanese, and their names in English and sign language at the bottom. (Or, I assume the sign language was just names – it seemed too abbreviated to be translations of the Japanese.) Then there were a bunch of clips of the Imperial family waving at crowds at various public occasions over the past few years.
The tour was in Japanese, with English audio-tour thingies available. (I think there may have been Chinese ones, too.) I took one. The audio tour was kind of odd and stilted – the phrase “is said to” kept popping up in weird places, like, “This garden is said to have been installed by Tokugawa Someguy” – I mean, except maybe for that castle they picked up and moved from Kyoto, this stuff was all constructed in the Edo era or later. I’m pretty sure we know for sure who ordered its construction. It’s like if there was a tour of the Tower of London and the guide went, “Queen Elizabeth is said to have been imprisoned here, and been maybe kind of displeased about it.”
The parts of the palace we got to see were not actually all that impressive. The current palace only dates back to the late 60s, given that the US kind of air-raided the old one during World War II. And it looks like 60s architecture, too – it’s not an awe-inspiring building. The recording assured us that it was very modern inside.
The landscape garden looked interesting (have you noticed I have certain prejudices), but the public isn’t allowed in, and there was some kind of construction project blocking most of the view. Over the edge of the blockades you could see a really big hedge, made out about a million different smaller plants, really carefully trimmed to make it look like an Ohmu from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. (Okay, maybe that wasn’t the aesthetic intention. The recording said it was intended to evoke mountains. Motile Mushishi mountains.) If I were a kid living in the Imperial Palace, I would totally be all about making a secret base inside that hedge.
The tour is really kind of sad, and guilt-inducing for an American, because most of it was stuff like, “There used to be a wooden bridge here – but it was destroyed by air raids in World War II,” and “This cement administrative building is not really very interesting, except that it was used as a temporary residence for the Imperial family after the palace was destroyed in air raids in World War II.” We kind of did a number on the palace, and it doesn’t seem like anyone ever got real inspired to pretty it up. It’s a very utilitarian-looking place. I wonder if that’s representative of the Japanese government’s feelings about the Emperor, or of a desire for privacy on the Imperial family’s part.
Basically, an interesting experience, but if you want pretty, go to Koishikawa Korakuen or something.
I actually left the tour twenty minutes early because I was meeting Mo at noon and realized I’d totally miscalculated how long the travel time would be. They had to have a security guard leave his post to take me out, which I felt bad about. He seemed kind of disconcerted by the whole thing, and pointed out some photo opportunities to me on the way out, apparently thinking it was too bad I’d scheduled this tour weeks ago and didn’t have time to stay for the whole thing. Thank you, security dude.
I had to go to the post office and close with my yucho account today. I’d wanted to do it yesterday, but, shockingly, the post office was closed. (You can mail stuff on Sundays here, but the postal banking desks are closed. The ATMs close early, too.) I asked Mo to go with me, thinking we’d be in and out in about half an hour. Not so! The first guy we talked to found my bank transfer details so confusing he refused to deal with them, shoved some paperwork at us without explaining it, and made us take a new number and wait another twenty minutes to talk to someone else. He then went on break.
The second person, a manager, explained that I’d done the paperwork wrong, had me do it again, and had a long conversation with Mo, which I amazingly 70% followed, about the most advantageous way for me to make the transfer. Unfortunately, the most advantageous way involved a lot of paperwork – we were in there close to another hour and a half before she got it all printed out and ready. But I now have all my money in traveller’s checks made out to Mom. (This may technically be tax evasion, but it is tax evasion blessed by a Japan Post manager.)
Mo and I went and ate at a really good Italian place, and I paid for her for subjecting her to two hours in the Post Office when she wasn’t feeling well. (She wasn’t feeling well.) I’d been supposed to be back in the room at 4:00 to give my luggage to the takkyubin company, but it had taken so long at the post office that Mo called for me and asked them to push it back an hour. I got back at twenty to five, finished packing the smaller bag and stuffing some random stuff in the top of the big bag, and waited for the takkyubin.
The girl from Hong Kong who lives down the hall came out as I was giving the takkyubin guy my bags, and we had a conversation for the first time in the month we’ve been here – she’s moving out day-after-tomorrow. I said, “Yeah, this place is not so great…” She said, “It’s more of a people problem.” We both looked over our shoulders towards Mr. Creepybastard’s room.
Then I realized I hadn’t washed my bedding like I was supposed to before I checked out, and went down to put it in the washer – I’ve got to go get it out now, hang on. Okay, done. And now I’m sitting here trying not to fall asleep, because in an hour I’ve got to go out and sell my cell phone to a dude at the station.
Back from the station. I’d been trying really hard to use gender-neutral pronouns for the takkyubin service and stuff in this post, but then I went ahead and assumed male as the gender-default for people on Craigslist. The person who bought my phone was female.
Tomorrow they come and inspect the room at 8:30, and then I go out and find a Docomo shop and cancel the plan for my other phone and head to the airport. I still need to mail my insurance card to the Shiyakusho, but apparently there’s a post office at the airport, and I’m paranoid and want to get there as early as possible.