The earthquake and a mysterious bookstore

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We had an earthquake today.  A really little one, not even strong enough to tip over the flowerpots outside.  I was sitting in the living room with Manami this morning, she was doing her hair for work and I was doing my hair for school and all of a sudden I heard this rumble and the windows began to rattle.  It sounded like a train was passing through the neighborhood-

-but wait a second, the train tracks are a ten minute walk from here…

Perhaps it was a semi-truck-

a truck that size could never fit down these narrow streets

A thunderstorm?

For it to be that loud, I would’ve heard softer ones before this…

Suddenly Manami paused and said “eh!  Jishin,” meaning earthquake.  She turned off the gas-heater in the living room and went back to straightening her hair.

And just like that the day went on.  The housewives continued to gossip, the bikers continued to almost run me over, the screaming birds continued to scream, and the construction workers down the street continued to stare at some gravel patch they’d dug in the road. No-harm no-foul.

I’ll admit, I was a bit dissapointed.  Of course it would suck if the Earth opened up and swallowed me, but I was hoping for something a little more…dramatic.  Maybe something on the dish-breaking-richter-scale.  Or something.  *knock-on-wood (I don’t really want anyone to get hurt)*…

Despite (or perhaps because?) of the morning’s excitement I felt rather icky, so I decided to head home early.  It’s always difficult to head home before 5 (I pass a lot of cute little stores and my Id cries out “feed me Seymore”), but luckily it was cold enough out to discourage any dawdling on my part.  Except for this one store…

Usually I’m in too much of a hurry to really take notice as I pass by- it’s between a chic boutique and a luscious-smelling takoyaki stand (which is run by a nice old man who looks like he’s always short on customers), so I screw up my willpower and blast right past it.  And when I have time to stroll through, this shop is closed or I miss it completely because the sign above it has completely rotted away.  I’ve spent some mornings wondering when I’ll see it, only to discover I passed it two blocks ago.  The one Saturday I went to Korien I made a point of finding this store, only to discover a note on the door saying the owner had decided to go on vacation.

So today when I saw the door open I decided why not take a chance?  I can blame it on raging hormones later.

And for once, at least, I thank you hormones.  You’ve reminded me that awesome-sauce lies puddled in places you’d never think to look.

The bookstore was tiny, only two aisles long; it smelled of cigarette smoke and dust, and was crammed to the ceiling with old books, CDs, videos, and various other objects.  And I mean CRAMMED.  The shelves were full to bursting with books, the owner had even tied some together with thread to keep them from tumbling from where they sat atop the bookcase, in some places over a foot high.

There was an old wooden clock gathering dust in the corner, along with a roll-up mat, a record featuring black-and white portraits of samurai, several blankets and cushions, an old jewelry box, and tons of other various things.  There was even a small pillow attached to a wooden stand, made for geisha and the like in order to keep them from ruining their hair while they slept. The second aisle was partially inaccessible- there was a mountain of blankets, boxes, hats, and even a TV blocking the far half of it.

But despite all this (or perhaps because of it) I was entranced.  Even the smell, which made me a little sick, told of the age and variety this place held.

The owner was interesting as well.  He appeared after I walked in, as if from nowhere.  A little old man in a fishing hat and a large smile, he apparently took me for Indian, and proceeded to ask me if I spoke Hindi.  After our short conversation, in which I confirmed that no I was not from India, I was from America and did not know any Hindi (Indians in Japan are a rising minority, so I guess that’s where all the confusion about me comes from) he retreated behind his little nook, complete with desk, sofa, ancient computer, and heating lamp.

I stayed for goodness knows how long, going over each and every inch of the place (that I could reach, anyway).  There were books in almost every major language the world has ever known (except Spanish), and yes- including Hindi.  The Greek section in particular took up an entire bookshelf by itself.  There was an entire shelf full of manga, half a shelf full of CDs- both foreign and domestic.  Many of them Jazz or rock, and about 6 or seven Japanese albums of Jimmy Hendrix and Eric Clapton alone.  There were bibles, and Shakespeare in two languages, and dictionaries of Japanese-French and Japanese-German, and Japanese-English.  There were sociology books right next to an old copy of Alice’s Adventures underground published in a copy of Lewis Carrol’s own handwriting and illustration.  And porn.  Lots and lots of porn.  In Japan porn’s pretty easy access-you’ll see men lined up at the seven-eleven on weekday mornings reading the magazine racks, and there’s a porno-mag vending machine on my way to school- but even so I was kind of astounded at the size of this guy’s video, magazine, and manga collection.  I wondered how much of it had been sold to him by others and how much he’d collected himself, and at that point I got the creeps.  Ever since I had that incident with that old man in Chinatown I’ve been especially leery of old men and even though this one didn’t give me the creeps per-se, he had an awful lot of porn, so I decided to beat a hasty retreat (side note, I saw a little old man touch his little old wife’s butt today.  Creepy or Adorable?  The jury’s still out).

I took a lot of pictures, though.  And bought a copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull (I’m sorry Sanjana, I left the one you gave me in the co-op and someone took it) with Japanese translation and notes for 500 en (about US $5.50), so the day ended rather well.  I think I’ll go back there again some day…just not by myself.  Or with guys.  Cuz’ that would be awkward.

Love,

Mieko

P.S. Pictures will be up on facebook by the end of the week.

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