Noilly Prattle: October 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sunday stroll in the park

     The other day we decided to kill three birds with one stone: have a late lunch/early dinner at our favorite Indian curry restaurant, rent a DVD for a second look at The Da Vinci Code and walk in the UNDOUKOEN (sports park)--all within walking distance of each other.

reconstruction of a Yayoi village
Yayoi event button souvenir
      As we were approaching one of the entrances to the park I noticed a group of policemen standing around sporting billy clubs around their waists. This being out of the ordinary I pointed them out to Road Buddy and wondered why they were there. There was a cultural event going on in the park focusing on life in Japan's prehistoric past (Yayoi period, 300 BC – 300 AD) with booths set up for hands on experiences such as making fire with a kind of fire stick, etc. (I tried it but failed to make the thing do more than smoke a little.) I also got a couple of buttons with cute cartoons of Yayoi artifact samples. This event seemed to me to be too innocuous to merit police protection or, conversely, surveillance.

riot police for crowd disturbance control
      After my failed attempt to make fire, I started to notice other groups of police at other entrances to the park some of them decked out in riot control gear and carrying firearms. Things were looking surpassing strange. When we came upon an area of the park that was loosely roped off we could see that there was some kind of large event complete with music, a traditional dance performance on an outdoor stage, food booths and other booths featuring various displays and lots of banners and signs which I couldn't read very well.

Citizens, along with Diet members
 of the Japanese Communist Party
and Social Democratic Party,
call for the preservation of the nation's Constitution.
(Asahi Shimbun file photo)
      Road Buddy, who could read the signs, told me that it was an annual convention of the Japan Communist Party. Since it was easy to slip under the cordon (and other people were doing it anyway) we slipped in to have a look around. As we walked around we talked about the political picture in Japan in recent years. 

     There is an extreme right-wing organization in Japan that is characterized by its deep hostility to Communism and the Teacher's Union which advocates Liberal issues such as Socialism and is opposed to the changing of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (the so-called Peace Article). The right wing is militaristic and blatantly and loudly goes around in black vehicles festooned with Japanese flags and patriotic slogans blaring loud martial music and propaganda harangues on high decibel loud speakers. They are protected by freedom of speech and appear to be immune to any kind of charges of disturbing the peace. There have been clashes between the right-wingers and the Teachers Union at events such as conferences and conventions.

black bus with flags and slogans
Imperial chrysanthemum logo
of the Japanese Emperor
      That seemed to explain the presence of so many police at the various entrances to the park and I remarked to RB that I'd be willing to bet that the police were there to prevent any trouble between the Communist Party convention attendees and the right-wingers. Hardly was this speculation voiced when, well, didn't we hear the loudspeakers of the right-wing trucks cruising around in the street outside the park.

      We just looked at each other, I shrugged and rolled my eyes.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Plaisirs d'amour (Sex for Sale)

   It seems like all roads lead to “the floating world”.

    That's one of the ways it is known in Japan. Other tags are “the willow world”, or, nowadays, “the water business”-- mizu shoubai [水商売].

Nishigawa Park
    It wasn't my intention, the other day, to wander around in the willow world. I was merely going for a walk in the park to while away the time while my S.O. was at the eye clinic for a check up on her eye surgery. It was a bright sunny morning, typical post typhoon weather, perfect for a walk in the landscaped park that borders Nishigawa, a canal that runs through our city. I had forgotten, with the passing of the years, that our willow world also borders the same park.

 building signs
for clubs and bars
    I began to notice signs that indicated that our water business was still alive and well. I was curious to see how it would compare with another walk I took in Paris down the hill of Montmartre, as pleasant a place to walk as our Nishigawa. And also adjacent to its own floating world.

    Pigalle, at the foot of Montmartre, is lurid, hard, direct and brassy. Whereas, Nishigawa is softer, suggestive, adolescent fantasy fulfilling and maybe a little kinky. There is even something for the ladies in Nishigawa—host clubs.

    Either way, you pays your money and you takes your chances. These establishments are associated with organized crime—you'd better be able to pay your bill after you've had your fun, even if it's only for the privilege of chatting with a hostess (or host) and buying her/his overpriced watered down “drinks”. 


Nishigawa's floating world features fantasy theme clubs such as sexy nurses or young girls in high school uniforms. The hostesses are dressed in "cosu-play"--costumes depending on the theme.

comic book theme cabakura
(cabaret club)
high school girl theme

cabaret club is called  "Nurse Call"

typical store front club
so called "resort" suggesting exoticism
this one is called "Dubai Resort"

host club for ladies

comic book influence on
a more traditional theme

companion for rent


Known as "Pig Alley" to GIs of World War II, Pigalle is far more blatant and raunchy than the relatively genteel and discrete enticements of our Nishigawa. But, whatever its merits or demerits, Pigalle was the home and inspiration for some of the world's great artists: Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, van Gogh. Edith Piaf. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Shooting the Moon

     I traveled to the moon last night, in my imagination at least. 

     Back home in Western Japan after a nearly 3-month trip to Europe and the United States and still a little weary from the physical displacement, the travel destination came to me instead of vice versa last night. 

    You see, we had a perfect view of an almost total lunar eclipse in a clear sky visible from our deck. As the Earth's shadow passed across the face of the moon I could imagine my own shadow projected onto its surface and, looking back, see the planet sliding across the face of the Sun.

     How's that for a trip without ever leaving home!