Monday, November 2, 2009

It’s a charming country

Not too surprisingly, everyone here seems to have a cell phone. Unlike in North America or Europe, where phones tend to be Blackberry/IPhone size, or tiny tiny, the phones here a sort of midsize – maybe 2” by 4”. Most flip open, some have a top layer that slides up. The thing is that the screen area is large – certainly much larger than my little Koodo phone. 

People refer to their phones constantly – pulling them in and out of pockets, wearing them on straps around their necks. On the train one day last week one young women spent the entire 3 hour train ride looking at the screen of her phone. The big difference – you rarely hear them ring and people don’t talk on their phones that often. But the thumbs are flying as lots of texting and web surfing goes on.

I’m always a little surprised when an incredibly elegant, expensively dressed woman pulls out her phone and it has all this stuff hanging off of it. Charms and do dads. I started watching and its everyone one – men, women , children, everyone. And not just a charm or two. Whole small stuffed animals (which look really ratty after being pulled in and out of pockets or bags). Purses and backpacks, too.  Hmm, thought I.

Then we went to a Buddhist temple. And at most temples there are booths/kiosks that sell charms. Charms for good luck, good health, safe driving, good grades. Most of these are little coloured silk bags with a cord. They are worn close to the body and are not to be opened, or they do not work. The good grades charms are little backpacks, like the ones school kids wear.  So, it would appear that there is a tradition of having charms, and cell phones are one of the places they wind up.

I don’t have my cell phone with me, so I’ve got one for my camera:

IMG_0792 A stamp of Kyoto and a little maple leaf - ‘cause one must be au courant with the seasons…..

Clearly I need a tricky little strap for my camera.

The Japanese esthetic is interesting. On the one hand there is the elegant and refined style, perfected over hundreds of years of applied effort. And then there’s Hello Kitty. Cute to the point that your teeth hurt.

We ate lunch today at a restaurant in Furukawa. Being way up in the mountains this is cow country, so we had Hida beef with curry sauce. The placemat was beautiful – an elegant sketch of maple leaves and a mountain. And the chopsticks holder was a ceramic Pokeman character. Go figure.

The beef with curry sauce was delicious, as were all the components of the meal – this was a sort of first course –colours and decorations to match the season. Its a croquette of mashed potatoes and vegetables – very good!


While we were in Furukawa the weather took a turn for the worse. It began to rain. And then it got serious and really began to rain. And the wind came up. The train station is a pretty minimal operation and today it won the ‘Coldest place I’ve ever been’ prize. In fact we resorted to a can of hot coffee from the vending machine. And then the train didn’t come and we were beginning to wonder how we would get out of there. But another train came and all was well. We got back to the hotel, added sweaters and gloves and carried on. Now we’re tucked up in our room with the heat on and drinking tea. Tomorrow we head for Tokyo – back to the crowds!

And a room with a real bed, tables and chairs:


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