Sometimes you just have one of those days that manages to include everything that’s wacky and wonderful about Japan. I thought I’d write about mine.
I took an early train from my place in the suburbs to a centrally located doctor’s office to see about some persistent back pain. The train was three minutes late. For the first ten minutes of the journey, the driver would make an announcement along the lines of: “Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize. Due to some trouble at Kita-Senju station, this train is running three minutes behind schedule. For those who are in a hurry, we profusely apologize.” And he really sounded like he meant it.
At the doctor’s office I got my diagnosis (nothing serious, most likely a muscle spasm, he gave me some injections and some magic tape that made my lower back freezing cold and told me to come back in a week if things weren’t better). Before heading out, though, I noticed that my doctor’s desk had a little assortment of drawings made by child-patients. Most of them were the usual “Thank you Doctor” messages with pictures of kids and hearts and flowers. But one of them–drawn by a girl who had written only her name in childish script–was a picture of Death. As in, a guy wearing a black hood and holding a sickle. Nothing else.
It wasn’t, like “Oh, that’s a guy in a hood who looks kind of like Death.” It was *Death.* Very, very specifically drawn.
For the record, my doctor seems like a very nice guy and the injections and the magic tape have already made me feel a lot better. But I really think he should take that picture down. The last thing you want to see in a doctor’s office is a picture of Death, even if it was drawn by an innocent child. Wait…scary imagery drawn by seemingly “innocent” children? This is starting to sound a lot like my dissertation…freeeeaky…
Trying to erase the image of Death from my mind, I stopped for an early lunch of one of my favorite things in the whole world–the grilled mushroom and pumpkin sandwich from The Pantry. And oh, it did not disappoint. Who cares about Death when you’ve got a sandwich like this?
The photo doesn’t really do it justice, but it’s *so* good. Pumpkin that’s velvety soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, fresh grilled shimeji mushrooms, some kind of herb mayonnaise that’s amazing, fresh slices of cheddar cheese, soft, warm pita bread, and crispy fries. I’ve never been able to duplicate it at home–maybe because I don’t have a proper grill (and I’m guessing they use a LOT of butter to grill the veggies). I finished it in five minutes and immediately wanted another one.
As I sat in the restaurant filling out my insurance forms (thankfully not too complicated), I realized that the background music was late eighties glam rock. With lots of crazy guitar solos. And then the next song was…Enya. Seriously, Enya. Even if the sandwich wasn’t delicious, any restaurant that plays glam rock and Enya in the same set is awesome in my book.
Finally, on my way home I passed a sign warning against smoking while walking. Anti-“aruki-tabako” (walking while smoking) laws have spread all over Tokyo’s 23 wards, which is a real blessing as far as I’m concerned–walking on a crowded sidewalk, my eyes have often passed within millimeters of someone’s lit cigarette. In this case, the warning sign was a little hand-scrawled note, and, uh….
So remember, don’t smoke while walking. And cigarette-human hybrids are expressly forbidden in this neighborhood.