|Imperial Palace grounds.|
TOKYO —The plan was to start Monday touring the city's Harajuku district, talking to the Lolita goths and costumed cosplay kids who hang around the bridge there about Japanese concepts of cuteness, for my article.
But it rained. The weather report had said, "Scattered Showers," but they never scattered. They stayed together, pelting down hard, all day. Really, it was like the opening scene of "Rashomon."
So Plan B. I walked around the Imperial Palace, waiting for the rain to stop. The place was utterly deserted, such a contrast to the unbelievable density of the Tokyo subway. Then, when I realized the rain wasn't letting up, I gave Harajuku my best shot but, it was raining, there too, and while there were shoppers, the street scene folk who usually enliven the landscape were staying dry.
Across the bridge is the Meiji Jingu Shrine, and since I was standing in front of the entrance, I took refuge there, and toured its gardens, contemplating my mission. I was rewarded with a conversation with a pair of garden guards about yuru-kyara—the official mascots I'm writing about—that helped focus my thinking on the subject.
By 2 p.m., after ... eight full hours walking in the rain, with another few to go before it let up, I was steaming up my glasses over a bowl of hot ramen. I'm not sure whether it was the best ramen I've ever eaten, or merely the most appreciated. But either way, it brought me back to the room. I only slept an hour last night -- even though I had only slept an hour on the plane, my body still thought it was 12 noon, not 2 a.m. So a nap seems in order.