We started my birthday (actual birthday? Second birthday? Tokyo birthday – I am living in the future now after all…) with a walk along the river. Along the way we saw the Tokyo Skytree from a distance. Its one of the tallest buildings in the world, I believe it ranks #2, and is much, much taller than the Space Needle. We looked it up and I think it was around three times as high? Tall, anyway. Going up sounded neat, but I was hoping for a clear enough day to see Mt. Fuji and it was still decidedly damp.
There was also a space boat on the water!
The Space Boat gives tours, but I never worked out where to get on. Also this way I can totally imagine it was crewed by aliens or robots or something. The truth was only bound to disappoint.
Our first tourist destination of the day was the Imperial Gardens. Which meant exiting at this nifty station that totally reminds me of King Street station in Seattle, and seeing swans.
Given the day was too wet for good photos we headed over to Akihabara to look around the area and find the Kit Kat Chocolatary. Plans were immediately derailed as falling from the sky in fat fluffy flakes as we came into the station was SNOW!!! I immediately declared that my birthday was today instead of tomorrow (Mom went into labor on the equinox, that counts, right?)
After that I took off wandering random directions outside in the snow. Paul considered his promise fulfilled. “It may have taken several years” he said, “but look! I finally took you to play in the snow!” Given that the snow in question is in Japan, I think we can agree that even if it isn’t going sledding, it definitely counts. Even if it was an accident. 😀
The raven? Was sitting in that Sakura tree. I wasn’t sure at first, but it had an awfully deep voice for a crow or craven, and then it finally shifted so I could see its beak. And then I realized that Japan is positively filled with ravens for at least as far south as Kyoto.
The snow was starting to die down when I saw it. The Book Store. At least ten stories that felt like it rivaled Powell’s. I felt like I was in a never ending mage’s tower of books. If I could read Japanese, I’m not sure there would be much to tell about the rest of the trip. Though Paul might’ve put his foot down once they kicked us out at closing and refused to let me go back.
See the thing is, it wasn’t just filled with books, it was filled with books I’ve never read or seen before!
As it was we did leave, after being severely tempted by some art books (so pretty!) And checked out other things like game arcades, the Square Enix Cafe (all full sadly), figurine shops, PS4 games I can’t play because a) I don’t have a PS4, b) wrong region, and c) it’s hard to play an rpg if you can’t read the language. But there were so many awesome games the US doesn’t have and will probably never be ported over. Is playing a game in Japanese a good way to master language comprehension? The fantasy vocab may not be useful in conversation, but as a storyteller/Songwriter? I passed for now because I think I would also need a Japanese console to play on. If I’m wrong please correct me, and I’ll grab something neat looking next chance I get.
There were cosplay and maid cafe’s (we didn’t go in, apparently many of them are designed to part you from all of your money before you realize.)
I was amused to find that even in Japan, you can drop me in a city with no directions and I will find a Lush. Found two on the same day even! I noticed the store lacked some of the harsh scent edges the US stores have, and the scent was lighter over all. I found myself wondering if the formulation was different or something. Or perhaps there’s more thought given into what sits next to what?
As we headed back to the hotel…
(Not an April Fool’s joke, I promise). I decided to stop waiting on a video to post (I’ll add one later instead) and just get it out there.
So wander over to Bandcamp and check it out. This month’s offering is a song titled Breathe. I got brave and asked to debut it at the Norwescon dance. The response was overwhelmingly positive and its not 100% finished yet. People wanted a copy as it is, right now.
I thought briefly about releasing it as a single, but if it is that well liked, than I expect it will probably by one of the songs that sells the album, so I compromised. This is a way to hear it now, as it is, before I tinker with it any further, and a fair bit ahead of the album release (Watch for The Solo Project).
If you weren’t there to hear it, it’s different than my usual fare, fairly significantly. Think mermaid trance with a slight nod to Enigma. Subscribers also get everything I’ve released so far on Bandcamp. If you don’t already own my other albums, subscribing for one month is a great deal for you, two months equals what I would normally make from digital album sales, and anything beyond continues to gain you all new releases, and helps me fund production of those releases.
I will be offering a subscriber only release every month (and I have about a year’s worth of quality backlog built up, so you don’t have to worry about me becoming too busy to make something to share.
Much love whether or not you can afford to subscribe. The music will still find a way to flow.
Ostara (The spring equinox) dawned grey and wet. Not that that deterred long time Puget Sound residents like us, who have traffic problems when the sun actually comes out because everyone is so busy gawking. First stop?
Before reaching the temple you walk through this lovely open air market. We went through before 10am so not everything was open yet but between that and the rain while I didn’t get many photos, we also weren’t super crowded. I kept getting confused about whether this was a Temple or a Shrine, because Tori gates mean shrines. The answer is that the temple shares the grounds with the Asakusa Shrine. (Temples are Buddhist and shrines are Shinto religion, but they often keep company in Japan)
The proper way to show respect if there is a place of water with ladles is to pour water on your left hand, washing it. Switch hands and pour water on your right. Then pour water in your cupped hand and rinse your mouth before lifting the ladle straight up so the water runs down the handle rinsing it off before setting it back.
I saw it as both practical and respectful. Having the opportunity to clean my hand was one I found myself appreciating, especially as many shrine and temple paths are lined with food vendors selling tempting things on sticks.
There is also a wafting of incense smoke, and one can buy incense to light and add to the bowl to carry a prayer. Some places have candles to buy and light (some pre-purposed, some blank). There are fortunes (if you get a bad one you tie it up to change your luck), and lucky charms. Those I found varied with the focus of the shrine or temple. Some focused on health, others learning, or safety. There was some overlap, but you couldn’t, say, buy a charm to pass exams at the Inari Shrine. If a charm is in a bag you never open it, and after it has worn out you can return it to where it came from to be properly burned and get another. You wear them outside rather then kept safe in a bag, and the wear they get is good. It means they are taking the bad instead of you.
To people who don’t even believe in the power of belief, I suppose it could be seen as a way to part people from their money, but most of these places have no entrance fee to visit. As beautiful as they are, they must take work to maintain. Wood and bamboo age easily, moss needs to stay wet, gardens carefully shaped and tended. I tried to get a little something at each place that stole a piece of my heart to say thank you. And if you do believe? I bought only those charms that made my hands tingle, or in one case felt like picking up lightning. And only once did I truly buy for myself. It seemed better somehow holding something I could feel was real, to not keep it for myself but to gift it to someone who needed it more than I. Even the Ofuda (house charm) I thought I bought for myself at Mt. Inari let me know quite soon that it was meant for another. Who am I to argue with a Fox spirit?
Going through SeaTac inspection was the most amazingly painless experience flying I’ve ever had. Shoes? Stayed on. Liquids and electronics? Left in the bag please and thank you. This seemed to be true for everyone I could see that day. I lost my ticket between my last trip to the bathroom and the plane but they let me on anyway while keeping an eye out for anyone trying to use my ticket (it was fine, thankfully).
The flight itself was long (nonstop on ANA), but they served us two meals and I discovered if I wasn’t trying to sleep or just watch movies, but actually spent the time working on one of the projects known for sucking hours from me in a blink of an eye, that it felt like a quite short flight really. Possibly the fact that I still felt full when the second meal was served may have helped with that. I do like a good curry for dinner!
The actual passing through immigration was painless, the waiting to pass through immigration took like an hour to an hour and a half of switch back lines. Paul and I had been switching off wheeling the carryon and I was so tired I forgot I had it with me when I went to the bathroom. Didn’t remember for a good… 15-20 minutes, started to panic, went and looked, and it was still there. Practically anywhere else I’ve been that would not have been the case (though it might well have been turned in to an attendant). Luggage and rail tickets in hand we headed off to Tokyo. By then it was dark, so there really wasn’t anything to see on the rail to the city (for the bits that were above ground).
The hotel was near Namco (there were statues, I kept forgetting to get photos.) a short walk from Asakusa station. We stopped into the convenience store across the street (that word actually means what you think it means there) and I discovered the existence of peach coke. Nectar of the gods comes to mind as a descriptor. Paul took to calling the look on my face a peachgasim every time I tried a new peach drink. They were just that good. I have been informed that the USA is allowing me to have nice things in the form of peach coke here. I await my first sampling with dubious optimism. For some reason they always seem to feel the need to alter perfect recipes into less perfect ones, but I can hope they won’t butcher the sheer perfection I tasted.
I wanted to fill my suitcase, but Kit Kats were lighter, so I went with the kit kat scavenger hunt instead. (So many kit kats. So many kit kats.) There were probably at least 20 kinds I didn’t come home with, and close to that many kinds that I did bring back to try.
I have a show at Norwescon! Look for Leannan Sidhe at 2pm on Saturday. We’ll be performing some of the songs from the upcoming album, as well as some fan favorites. 🙂
Ah, yes, you heard that right. I’m working on my new album Bright and Broken. (Technically, I’m sort of working on two at the same time. There will be a lot of cross-over in songs but the style? I’m doing fun things with the music that most of you haven’t heard from me before!)
There’s no release date set yet, I won’t be putting one out until I’m confident I’ll make it on time. There is however a way to get a sneak peak at The Solo Project coming down the pipeline much sooner.
Blessed Be all, and I hope to see you at Con!